Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Epistemology of Proverbs and Idioms of the Asante Ethnic Group of Ghana for Introspection

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Epistemology of Proverbs and Idioms of the Asante Ethnic Group of Ghana for Introspection

Article excerpt


The Asante ethnic group of Ghana do not always favour clear and direct statements in their speeches. Proverbs (ebe = singular, Mme = plural) and idioms (kasakoa = singular, nkasakoa = plural) are used when people do not want to be immediately and directly understood, especially, where a double meaning or prevarication is required. Proverbs and idioms are used to emphasize statements or arguments where it is desired to show that there is precedent action to be taken. The actions are interpreted in terms of the past by giving the aura of the conventional by their associations with familiar forms of words (Christaller, 1933; Appiah, Appiah & Agyeman-Dua, 2007).

Proverbs and idioms are used profusely, especially during gathering of the elders. Among the Asante ethnic group before a person can become well versed in the customs and traditions proverbs and idioms have to be taught and learned (Kani, 1953; Fianko, 1955; Akrofi, 1963; Education Department of Ghana, 1938; Christaller, 1879). These proverbs and idioms compare equally to philosophical musings anywhere from Greece to the United Kingdom. They are used to illustrate and emphasise statements (Mensah, 1966). Asante proverbs and idioms can be interpreted ithin the tested and contested theories of meaning and literary production (Daaku, 1974).

To understand these proverbs and idioms there is need to understand the culture from which they come (Fianko, 1955; Antuban, 1963; Dankwah, 1968; Kyerematen, 1970). The acquisition of the knowledge and skills in proverbs and idioms are taught and learned by listening to the elders (Kani, 1953). It is reminisce to pass on this cherished wisdom to the youth and the richness and significance of the proverbs and idioms is manifest.

In chieftaincy, stool affairs and in the settlement of disputes proverbs and idioms are essentially used. They are a major qualification of the stool linguist. All aspiring Asante orators are expected to know many proverbs and idioms and must be able to cite them to provide points of comparison, illustrating general truths about human behaviour and attitudes during, especially, legal proceedings as well as deliberative occasions.

Furthermore, proverbs and idioms are used to summarise what would otherwise be a long and tedious disquisition and can be used as a polite form of criticism when direct speech would cause offence, and thus, are ways of avoiding quarrels or conflicts (Kani, 1953; Fianko, 1955). They need to be preserved and cherished in all their richness profound or punning or philosophical, obvious occasionally and more often than not, illuminatingly obscure. Proverbs and idioms are the sum total of the verbal shrines for the soul of the Asante ethnic group.

Proverbs and idioms provide richness of poetic imagery and vision, which makes them a distillation of the best Akan languages as well as oral literature (Kyeremateng, 2010). They give inspiration to drum and horne language. They give depth to the funeral dirges and the appellations of the chiefs. They are used symbolically in many occasions of stool paraphernalia where visual designs have associated proverbial and idiomatic meanings (Sarpong, 1974). People use them. Others collect them (Appiah, Appiah & Agyeman-Dua, 2007). These proverbs and idioms are a treasure beyond price (Sarpong, 1977).

Theoretical Niceties of Proverbs and Idioms of the Asante Ethnic Group

Theory and practice are two concepts frequently used in social circles. Theory, in general, is used to refer to the content covered in the lecture hall. In other words, it is a logically interconnected set of propositions used to describe, explain and predict part of the empirical world (Riehl & Roy 1980:5). Practice, on the other hand, refers to actual performing of social activities (Boaduo 2001; Boaduo et al, 2011). In a broader scientific meaning, theory refers to a series of propositions regarding the interrelationships among concepts from which a larger number of empirical observations can be deduced. …

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