Many people in the Akan society find it difficult to greet correctly. The youth, for instance, are combining the English and the Twi languages and saying MEPA WO KYJW, GOOD MORNING …..
This article should be useful not only to the youth but also to those who are learning the Twi or even the Akan language in Ghana.
Let Twi speakers read this article to refresh their minds on what they know about their own language.
I suggest to those non-Twi speakers to get a Twi person to pronounce the examples used in the article for them to mimic and then try to use with so many Twi speaking people.
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GREETINGS, RESPONSES & LEAVE-TAKINGS
IN THE AKAN SOCIETY by Wcfa Kwame Fosu, Abetifi
WHAT IS A GREETING?
A greeting, consisting of words and gestures expresses recognition, welcome, friendship and courtesy to a person or a group of persons. A greeting, which is an introductory utterance, plays a very important role in the day to day activities of every Akan person.
In the Akan society a greeting is the initiator of almost every conversation, or business. If one does not greet the other there should not be any interaction between the two. A question, a statement or whatever interaction that would be should be started with a greeting.
WHO GREETS WHO?
The Akan greets a family member, a friend, a neighbour, a visitor or a stranger in the house or in the street. Everyone is at liberty to greet anyone; but it is very normal for children to greet adults instead of adults taking the initiative to greet children.
Adults would be heard asking the children Jte sjn? How is it? This is after the adult among the children would have been greeted formally. It seems the children are not considered when it comes to greeting; however, the question, ‘Jte sjn?’ represents the greeting. Therefore, children are, in a way, greeted too. Babies behind their mothers’ backs are whispered to and also, spoken to, when adults touch them and wish them well.
The young can greet the old, the younger as well as the elderly. This means that people of equal age group may greet each other or one another; the elderly may greet the younger and vice versa. Males can greet males; females can greet females. Females can greet males and males can also greet females.
WHY SHOULD AN AKAN GREET?
Greeting a person does not only mean that one respects or recognizes the other. It also means that the greeter is polite and cultured. It means that the one who greets is an Akan who knows what is good and proper. A greeter is respected and so he/she gets a response in reply to his/her greeting.
To greet someone means that one respects the person who was greeted and that his/her presence is recognized by the greeter. It means the greeter is on speaking terms with the respondent and that there is no conflict between them.
Very often people who fail to greet others feel embarrassed and lower their heads in shame when their attention is called upon, and or are asked why they failed to greet. They then see the importance of greetings after having felt embarrassed for not greeting when it was due.
It is said that one day a well-educated man went out to visit a friend for an important discussion. On reaching the compound of the friend’s house the man saw a middle aged woman sitting in front of the house. This man went past her and entered the house without greeting her.
He called his friend several times but there was no response. The friend was not in the house. There was no one in the house to brief him of the where-about of his friend.
This man had to come out of the house to inquire from the woman. He knew he had offended the woman. He should have greeted her before entering the house. Since he did not do that he knew if he came to ask, this elderly woman would not be friendly. He came close to the woman and apologized to her before asking her to know where his friend had gone to. He had learned a lesson.
Maybe you have been in this situation before. Did you fail to greet or did someone fail to greet you? What was the reaction like? Have you been ‘taught’ a lesson because of what happened to you?
WHERE DOES AN AKAN GREET?
An Akan greets one at the farm or by the river side. He/she greets people at the chief’s palace, and in fact, at any place where people meet to interact. People greet everywhere and every time, no matter the purpose of meeting. It could be a period some information is being sought or when an occasion is being celebrated. Greetings could be extended to people making merry, at a time of mourning, during conversations or even when some business is being transacted.
WHAT DOES AN AKAN DO OR SAY WHEN HE OR SHE IS GREETING?
The best form of greeting is to shake the right hand while, at the same time, uttering the greeting words. However, not all greetings will be in the form of hand shakes.
At big gatherings like funeral celebrations, a person may greet by shaking hands with the people seated at the front row and wave to those seated behind them, while at the same time uttering the greeting words.
The one who initiates the greeting looks straight in the face of the respondent and offers the greeting. The respondent also looks straight at the greeter and responds by extending his/her right hand while uttering the responsorial words. Normally, greeting and responses are accompanied by bright faces or smiles.
The greeting words are many and varied, depending on the time of the day, the person who is greeting and the one who is being greeted. It also depends on the occasion the greeting is being extended to the respondent.
Respect must be shown to the one being greeted and so if the respondent is male or female, it must be mentioned and accompanied in the greeting. Old age is respected in the society and so whenever an elderly person is being greeted it must be clearly shown. Titles of chiefs must also be recognized and the due respect shown whenever such people are being greeted. Names of friends or, and relations acqaintances might be mentioned and used as salutations.
Agya or papa is the salutation for an adult male while jna or maame is the salutation expressed to adult females. Therefore, when a young person greets an adult male, the salutation should be either agya or papa before the greeting words would follow.
The plural form of the salutations are agyanom, jnanom, nananom, anuanom, etc. When one greets many people or shouts to greet somebody or some people who are far away, one adds` oo` to the expression to make it louder in order to reach the intended place.
Kwasi maakye oo. Agyanom, mema mo akye oo.
Jnanom mema mo akye oo. Nananom mema mo akye oo.
Nana is a title for a chief and also an old man or woman. Whenever a chief is being called or greeted the title, Nana, must be mentioned. These days the young ones, trying to be respectful tend to beg before they greet adults.
One would hear them greet thus………… “Mepa wo kyjw good morning”. Akans do not beg before greeting. So long as the title of the respondent gets mentioned there has been a sign of respect shown. The salutation is also representing the name of the respondent. The above quoted greeting is not the best. Akans do not beg when they greet; the salutation takes care of the respect. Again, the above greeting is not acceptable because it is a mixture of Akan and English languages. Mepa wo kyjw(please) good morning (maakye).
More to come Soon……