Thursday, March 29, 2012

Language in African social interaction: indirectness in Akan communication

Samuel Gyasi Obeng

I picked this book up after wanting to follow up on a topic I touched upon last spring and summer, that of modernity and cultural complexity in Africa.  (I've focused on the Akan culture in West Africa primarily because this is the culture with which I am familiar.)

Samuel Obeng's broadly premised book tells us about African (Akan) politeness and cultural complexity and, by comparison, allows us to reflect on the many cultural communication styles outside of Africa.

Conversation among friends, legal discourse, discussion with elders and political dissent are some of the communications which are analyzed.  Use of metaphor, hyperbole, irony, avoidance, and many other devices are illustrated.  The author does an excellent job of showing how indirectness and politeness function in Akan society to permit communication while maintaining dignity, peace and social cohesion.

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