Fante dialect

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Native toGhana
EthnicityFante people
Native speakers
2,800,000 (2013–2020)[1]
Official status
Regulated byAkan Orthography Committee
Language codes
ISO 639-2fat
ISO 639-3fat
Fante translation of the Book of Mormon; note the use of the Latin epsilon in the word N'AHYƐMU.

Fante (Fanti: [ˈfɑnti]), also known as Fanti, Fantse, or Mfantse, is one of the three principal members of the Akan dialect continuum, along with Asante and Akuapem, the latter two collectively known as Twi, with which it is mutually intelligible.[2] It is principally spoken in the central and southern regions of Ghana as well as in settlements in other regions in western Ghana, Ivory Coast, as well as in Liberia, Gambia and Angola.[1]

Fante is the common dialect of the Fante people, whose communities each have their own subdialects, such as Agona, Anomabo, Abura, and Gomoa,[3] all of which are mutually intelligible. Schacter and Fromkin describe two main Fante dialect groups: Fante 1, which uses a syllable-final /w/ and thus distinguishes kaw ("dance") and ka ("bite"); and Fante 2, where these words are homophonous.[2] A standardized form of Fante is taught in primary and secondary schools.[1] Many Fantes are bilingual or bidialectal and most can speak Twi.[4]

Notable speakers include Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson,[5] Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang,[6] former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan,[7][8] and former Ghanaian presidents Kwame Nkrumah and John Atta Mills.[9][10] Maya Angelou[11][12] learned Fante as an adult during her stay in Ghana.

Today Fante is spoken by more than 6 million people in Ghana primarily in the Central and Western Regions. It is also widely spoken in Tema, where majority of the people in that city are native Fante speakers who were settled after the new port was built.

One striking characteristic of the Fante dialect is the level of English influence, including English loanwords and anglicized forms of native names, due both to British colonial influence and "to fill lexical and semantic gaps, for reasons of simplicity and also for prestige". Examples of such borrowings include rɛkɔso ("records"), rɔba "rubber", nɔma ("number"), kolapuse "collapse", and dɛkuleti "decorate".[13] Native names are occasionally anglicized, such as "Mεnsa" becoming "Mensah" or "Atta" becoming "Arthur".[14]


The name "Fante" has two possible etymologies, both in reference to the neighbouring Asante people. The first states that the Fante were named for their custom of eating spinach, or efan, while the Asante ate another herb called san; the second, that the Fante split from the Asante, receiving the name ofa-tew, "the half that separated". However, as well as being phonetically inconsistent, any connection these etymologies propose with the Asante is anachronistic: the Asante rose to power in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and the Fante-Asante dichotomy only developed in the latter part of the 18th century, while the name "Fante" is much older.[15] The true etymology is unknown.[citation needed]



Labial Alveolar (Alveolo-)
Velar Glottal
plain lab. plain lab. plain lab. plain lab. plain lab.
Nasal m n ɲ ɲʷ
Plosive voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b d ɡ
Affricate voiceless ts tɕʷ [tɕᶣ]
voiced dz dʑʷ [dʑᶣ]
Fricative f s ɕ ɕʷ [ɕᶣ] h
Approximant r j w


Front Central Back
Close i u
Near-close ɪ ʊ
Close-mid e o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a

Of these vowels, five may be nasalized: /ĩ/, /ɪ̃/, /ã/, /ũ/, and /ʊ̃/.[16][17]

Fante exhibits vowel harmony, where all vowels in a word belong to one of the two sets /i e o u a/ or /ɪ ɛ ɔ ʊ a/.[17]


Fante, like all other varieties of Akan, has two contrastive tones, high tone (H) and low tone (L).[18]


Fante has a relatively phonemic orthography. It uses the following letters to indicate the following phonemes:[17]

Uppercase A B D E Ɛ F G H I K M N O Ɔ P R S T U W Y Z
Lowercase a b d e ɛ f g h i k m n o ɔ p r s t u w y z
Phoneme /a/ /b/ /d/ /e/, /ɪ/ /ɛ/ /f/ /g/ /h/ /i/ /k/ /m/ /n/ /o/, /ʊ/ /ɔ/ /p/ /r/ /s/ /t/ /u/ /w/ /j/ /z/


Fante makes heavy use of digraphs, including ky (/tɕ/), gy (/dʑ/), hy (/ɕ/), tw (/tɕʷ/), dw (/dʑʷ/), hw (/ɕʷ/), and kw (/kʷ/). However, labialization is symbolized in other labialized consonants either with ⟨u⟩, e.g. pue (/pʷei/), bue (/bʷei/), tue (/tʷei/), hue (/hʷei/), huan (/hʷan/), guan (/gʷan/), nua (/nʷia/), and sua (/sʷia/); or with ⟨o⟩, e.g. soer (/sʷer/), soe (/sʷei/), and noa (/nʷia/). Furthermore, the digraphs ny and nw may represent /ɲ/ and /ɲʷ/, respectively, as in nya (/ɲa/) ("get"), and nwin (/ɲʷin/) ("leak"), parallelling the use of other digraphs in Fante; or they may represent two individual phonemes, /nj/ and /nw/ respectively, as in nwaba (/nwaba/) "snail".

Fante also uses the digraphs ts and dz, which represent /ts/ and /dz/ in Fante subdialects that distinguish the plosives /t/ and /d/ and the affricates /ts/ and /dz/, but are allophonic with t and d in those subdialects which do not distinguish them. Fante is the only dialect of Akan to distinguish /ts/ and /dz/ from /t/ and /d/, and is therefore the only dialect whose alphabet contains the letter ⟨z⟩.[17]


Although ⟨e⟩ and ⟨o⟩ can represent multiple phonemes each, Fante orthography uses two strategies to distinguish them. First, Fante vowel harmony means /e/ and /ɪ/ are not likely to appear together in a word, nor are /o/ and /ʊ/. Second, if disambiguation is necessary, vowel digraphs may be used: ⟨ie⟩ to mean /e/ and ⟨uo⟩ to mean /o/. Thus /moko/ "pepper" is spelled muoko, while /mʊkʊ/ "I sit" is spelled muko.

Nasalization is marked with the diacritic ⟨ ̃⟩, but is only used when distinguishing "one of two or more words of the same spelling but different meanings which contain a nasal vowel",[19] and is omitted when there is no danger of ambiguity. The diacritic may also be included on the wrong vowel, as in the word kẽka, where it is the second syllable that actually receives the nasalization.[17]


  1. ^ a b c Akan at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) closed access
  2. ^ a b Schacter, Paul; Fromkin, Victoria (1968). A Phonology of Akan: Akuapem, Asante, Fante. Los Angeles: UC Press. p. 3.
  3. ^ "Fanti - MultiTree". Retrieved 2019-12-23.
  4. ^ Abakah, Emmanuel Nicholas (2004). "Elision in Fante" (PDF). Africa & Asia: 181–213.
  5. ^ Jones, Sam; Afua Hirsch (2013-02-11). "Who will be the next pope? The contenders for Vatican's top job". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  6. ^ "Make no mistake, Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang is a courageous Fante!". GhanaWeb. 2020-07-18. Retrieved 2023-10-02.
  7. ^ "William Shawcross - UK : official personal website". 2014-01-14. Archived from the original on 2014-01-14. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  8. ^ "Kofi Annan | Biography & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  9. ^ Welmers, William Everett (1946). A Descriptive Grammar of Fanti. Linguistic Society of America. p. 7.
  10. ^ Sunday, Eno-Abasi; Andrew Oyafemi (2012-07-25). "John Atta Mills: Death of an African leader". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2013-06-01. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  11. ^ Hambleton, Laura (2011-10-24). "Celebrated poet Maya Angelou speaks about a life well and creatively lived". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  12. ^ Drezen, Anna; Angelou, Maya (2018). "American Masters - The Poet: Dr. Maya Angelou". PBS. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  13. ^ Apenteng, Monica Amoah; Amfo, Nana Aba Appiah (2014). "The Form and Function of English Loanwords in Akan". Nordic Journal of African Studies. 23: 219–240.
  14. ^ Agyekum, Kofi (2006-12-31). "The Sociolinguistic of Akan Personal Names". Nordic Journal of African Studies. 15 (2). ISSN 1459-9465.
  15. ^ Landscapes, Sources and Intellectual Projects of the West African Past: Essays in Honour of Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias. BRILL. 2018-07-26. ISBN 978-90-04-38018-9.
  16. ^ Dolphyne, Florence (1988). The Akan (Twi-Fante) language: Its sound systems and tonal structure. Accra: Ghana University Press.
  17. ^ a b c d e Adjaye, Sophia A. (1985). "Fante: the orthography versus speech". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 15 (2): 23–33. doi:10.1017/S0025100300002954. ISSN 0025-1003. JSTOR 44525932. S2CID 145592307.
  18. ^ Abakah, Emmanuel Nicholas (2005). "Tone Rules in Akan" (PDF). Journal of West African Languages. XXXII: 109–134.
  19. ^ Mu, Ngyiresi Kasa (1900). Mfantse nkasafua nkyerekyerease = Fante-English dictionary (in Fanti). Cape Coast: Methodist Book Depot. OCLC 8344473.

External links[edit]