The role of Euphemisms in Nzema Language and Culture

Tomekyin Cecilia, Nyame John


This paper examines the role of euphemisms in the context of Nzema. It however discusses the Nzema examples alongside Akan, a sister language. Euphemisms can be linked to bone marrow in the sense that they are inseparable from language just as marrow is with bone. That is to say, it is highly impossible for bones not to have marrow as they are already embedded or built into the bones for varying purposes. Inasmuch as a body without breath is lifeless, a language that has no euphemistic expressions can also be said to be inadequate with respect to its functional and stylistic aspects. We use language to communicate and euphemism is a proper language style that people pursue in social communication in order to reach an ideal communication effect. Euphemisms are used in place of some sensitive, unpleasant, disturbing and taboo topics. The Nzema data indicate that in this language (Nzema), these expressions (euphemisms) can be dichotomised into two categories based on the communicative function they hold. In the first place, euphemisms are motivated by issues relating to taboos and are mainly used to avoid affronting both speaker’s and the hearer’s face. Secondly, they function as a stylistic marker so that their use is not as a response to taboo topics, rather, are subtle means of expressing one’s thought which fit in the context of use.


Euphemism; Dysphemism; Taboo word; Face; Doublespeak

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