Język Ewe - Ewe language - Eʋegbe

About this page

This page is supposed to serve as a collection of short bits of interesting information concerning various aspects of Ewe language. Think of it as "good to know" page or "fun facts" section. Other parts of our website provide a more in-depth treatment of the phenomena referred to here.

Indian connection? Rather not.

The nature of the relation between a language's grammar and the way its speakers see the world is subject to much speculation. For instance, it is often said that the fact the same Hindi word, kal means both "yesterday" and "tomorrow" testifies to the power of Indian belief in circular nature of time. What is not said so often is that Ewe also uses a single word for both concepts! In Ewe, etsɔ means both "yesterday" and "tomorrow" (to specify, you say "etsɔ which passed" or "etsɔ which will come")

Naming system

Ewes, like their neighbours name their children according to the day they were born in. For instance, a boy born on Friday is named Kɔfi and a boy born on Sunday is named Kɔsi Stay tuned for a full list of "weekday names" in Ewe and much more. Elsewhere on this website, there is a text explaining a particular case of name-giving.

Special sounds: kp and gb

In Ewe, as in other languages of the region (including eg. Akan, Yoruba and Igbo), there are some speech sounds quite rarely found in languages spoken elsewhere. "gb" and "kp" are one pair of such "special Ewe sounds". In linguistic jargon they're called labiovelar stops which means, broadly that they sound as if someone tried to pronounce g and b (or k and p) all at once not in succession. The audible effect is somewhat similar to an imitation of sounds made by a hen.

Different tone

Ewe is a tonal language. What this means is that the meaning of a word changes if it is pronounced in a different pitch (musical height). For instance, the word bu said with a low pitch means "respect", but when it's said with a high pitch it means "lose". Normally, there are two contrasting tones in Ewe: high and non-high, but the latter, depending on a word, can come in two variants: low and mid. Additionally, the tones (pitches) of neighbouring words sometimes interfere with each other in quite complex ways. One of the results of such interaction are complex tones: falling and rising. All in all we have no less than five pitches in Ewe: high, mid, low, falling and rising.

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