Why Language Matters: "Language Is an Intrinsic Part of a People's Identity, So Any Person or Group of People That Loses Touch with the Purity of Their Mother Tongue Is on the Verge of Losing Their Identity and Sense of National Pride," Says the Respected Ghanaian Linguist, Prof Kofi Agyekum. He Was Speaking in Accra at the Launch of His New Book on Akan Grammar. Stephen Gyasi Jnr Reports

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PROFESSOR KOFI AGYEKUM IS THE head of the University of Ghana's Department of Linguistics. A renowned Akan scholar, he has contributed much to the development of the Akan language. He is the coordinator of the Akan Dictionary Project at the University of Ghana, and has published other works, including Introduction to Literature and Akan Verbal Taboos.

He is also a broadcaster in the Akan language at Radio Universe, an FM station based on the campus of the University of Ghana, and a member of the National Peace Council. In 2007, he was voted the Best Teacher for Humanities by the University of Ghana, and received a national award a year later.

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With such a resume, his name travels before him in Ghana. And he does not suffer fools gladly when it comes to the proper usage of his beloved Akan language.

Speaking to New African moments after the recent launch of his latest book, Akan Kasa Nhyeyeee ("The Akan Grammar Book") in Accra, Prof Agyekum said "Language is an intrinsic part of a people's identity, so any person or group of people who lose touch with the purity of their mother tongue is on the verge of losing their identity and sense of national pride."

To him, "a people that does not pay proper attention to their language runs the risk of being overrun and dominated by those who pay attention to their languages."

Akan is the most widely spoken language in Ghana for six of the 10 regions of the country, with an overflow into the other four regions. Unlike most Akan books, which teach the language with the help of English explanations, Akan Kasa Nhyeyeee, a novelty in many respects, tackles various aspects of Akan grammar without any accompanying "foreign assistance".

Aware of the pressing need for such material in a country where the people, especially the youth, are caught up in a craze for mixing the local language with English, Opanin Agyekum (as the author is affectionately called), wrote this instructive manual with all levels of the educational system and readers in mind, thus making it a rare publication with universal appeal.

"I wasn't surprised that it is Prof Agyekum who has produced this work. He is well-known for his passion for the Akan language and the sheer fluency he displays in his speech. Although most of us are of the view that this noble project is long overdue, I salute the author's courage in coming out with this publication," said Prof F. A. Dolphyne, a former lecturer at the University of Ghana, who chaired the launch ceremony. …

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