Vol 30 No 1 (2021): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Linguistics

Cultural Scripts for Asymmetrical Interactions in Ghana

Rachel G. A. Thompson
Language Centre, College of Humanities, University of Ghana, Legon
Journal cover image for the Nordic Journal of African Studies. Image of Africa and the Nordic States
Published March 11, 2021
  • hierarchy,
  • communication,
  • norm,
  • authority,
  • age,
  • social status
  • ...More


This paper focuses on expected communicative behaviours during asymmetrical interactional events among Ghanaians, with special reference to Ewes and Akans. Drawing on the ethnopragmatic techniques of semantic explication and cultural scripts, it demonstrates how Ghanaian concepts of social hierarchy (roughly, the thought that some people are “above” others) influence verbal interaction. Five social categories that are prominent among Ghanaians in terms of age and social status are explicated to ensure a detailed description of individuals in such categories. Four cultural scripts are then posited to capture what is expected when one has to interact with someone thought of as “above” oneself. Some linguistic evidence is provided from Ewe and Akan, as well as from some other Ghanaian languages. The study attempts to show the possibility of describing some Ghanaian communicative norms in simple cross-translatable terms in order to enable non-Ghanaians to understand the viewpoint of cultural insiders.