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PanAfriL10n - PanAfrLoc - Akan


1.  Classification / Classification

The Akan (Twi, Twi-Fante) language varieties belong to the Central subgroup of the Volta Camoe group, which fall within New Kwa branch of Niger-Congo. (Webbook?)

Ethnologue? lists the classification as: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Kwa, Nyo, Potou-Tano, Tano, Central, Akan.

(Some sources also treat the related Anyi and Baule languages as Akan. We follow the Webbook and Ethnologue in treating them separately.)

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

It is spoken primarily in southern Ghana but extends into northwestern [northeastern?] Côte d'Ivoire. The Akan are in the south central, Ashanti province of Ghana. The Akuapem are in the southeast areas, north of Accra. The Fante are in the south central, between Winneba, Takoradi, and Obuasi. (Webbook; Ethnologue)

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

WA (1995) lists seven million speakers or 44% of the total population of Ghana. 1.8 Asante; 4.3 Fante; 230,000 Akuapem Twi (UBS, 1993). (Webbook)

8,300,000 (2004 SIL). Population includes 2,800,000 Asante Twi, 1,900,000 Fante, 555,000 Akuapem Twi (2004). (Ethnologue)

Ethnologue indicates that there are "1,000,000 second-language speakers."

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

The Akan language varieties are inherently intelligible. The language of the Asante and Akuapem is called "Twi." Akan has five main varieties, generally considered mutually intellible. They are Akyem, Akuapem, Asante, Brong, and Fante. (Webbook)

Ethnologue gives a more detailed breakdown: Fante (Fanti, Mfantse), Akuapem (Akwapem Twi, Twi, Akuapim, Akwapi), Asante (Ashante Twi, Asanti, Achanti), Agona, Dankyira, Asen, Akyem Bosome, Kwawu (Kwahu), Ahafo.

5.  Usage / Utilisation

According to WA (1990) about 44% of the Ghanaian population are members of the Akan-speaking groups. An official literary language used for education through university, and in mother tongue authored literature. Roman alphabet is used. 30% to 60% of the speakers are literate. (Webbook)

Two periodicals are published in Akan: Nkwantabisa and Akwansosem, while Akan radio broadcasts are also heard in Ghana. (Webbook)

Literacy rate (according to Ethnologue, accessed 2007):

  • L1: 30-60%
  • L2: 5-10%

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

a) Background

Standardized writing and orthographic writing system exist for Asante, Akuapem, and Fante; a unified Akan writing system for these three language varieties is complete. (Report of the Akan Orthography Committee, 1968, Bureau of Ghana Languages project). (Webbook)

Akan languages started to be written down, mainly in religious publications, by Danish, German and British missionaries during the 17th and 18th centuries. There are currently three standardized orthographies for Asante, Akuapem and Fante, there is also a unified Akan orthography which was created during the 1980s. (Omniglot)

b) Unified orthography

The Bureau of Ghanaian languages compiled a 20,000 word list of a unified orthography for Asante, Fante and Akuapem which is not in widespread use yet. (Wikipedia)

A revision and update of this orthography, A Unified Orthography for the Akan Languages of Ghana and Ivory Coast – General Spelling Rules, CASAS 2003, is published by CASAS.

The kasahorow Localization Project (formerly Dictionary Project) revises and implements the unified orthography for the Twi/Fante varieties of Akan mainly spoken in Ghana. http://africathink.ghanathink.org/guide

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

"Unicode fonts" with extended Latin ranges are necessary.

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

(see also comment in 9. below)

7.3  Content on computers & internet / Contenu en informatique et sur l'Internet

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

"Language-Museum" samples:


7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

kasahorow maintains an ongoing project.

Nkraata V1.1, an "Akan word processor," is available for free download at http://www.nkraata.com/ .

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue


  • ISO 639-1: ak
  • ISO 639-2: aka
  • ISO 639-3: aka


  • ISO 639-1: tw
  • ISO 639-2: twi
  • ISO 639-3: twi


  • ISO 639-1: -
  • ISO 639-2: fat
  • ISO 639-3: fat

7.6  Locales / Paramètres régionaux

7.7  Other / Autre

The kasahorow Akan dictionary http://dictionary.kasahorow.com

African Language Learning Materials (v 0.2)http://learn.kasahorow.com

Google has a version localized in Twi: http://www.google.com/intl/tw/ . This does not use the Akan orthography.

The "Squidoo" How-To site page "Learn to Speak the Twi Language from Ghana" has some links: http://www.squidoo.com/twi/

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

kasahorow http://kasahorow.com

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

9.  Comments / Remarques


  • Will separate localised versions be necessary for Akan dialects, or will one version work?

One version will work and it will be based on the unified orthography.

  • Is the unified orthography for Akan (see above, no. 6.1) official or widely accepted?

This is official in the sense that it was originally commissioned by the Gov't of Ghana (1968). The current revision is based on this original work. There are at least four organizations claiming usage of the standard orthography in their work

  • Bureau of Ghana Languages (Gov't agency)
  • Bible Society of Ghana (Non-gov't agency)
  • kasahorow (Private), formerly The GhanaThink Foundation (non-gov't agency)
  • University of Ghana (Quasi-gov't agency)

The GhanaThink Foundation has approached the other three agencies to consult on the use of the unified orthography in its online dictionary

  • Is there a standardized keyboard layout for Akan or for Ghanaian languages?
    Yes. Submitted to freepository.com and available in current Linux versions, e.g. Ubuntu 6.06 or better.

10.  References / Références

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, http://africa.isp.msu.edu/afrlang/hiermenu.html (page on "Akan," http://africa.isp.msu.edu/afrlang/Akan-root.html )

Chanard, Christian (2006), Systèmes alphabétiques des langues africaines, LLACAN, CNRS, http://sumale.vjf.cnrs.fr/phono/

Hartell, Rhonda L., ed. (1993), The Alphabets of Africa. Dakar: UNESCO and SIL. (The French edition, published the same year, is entitled Alphabets de Langues Africaines).

kasahorow, http://kasahorow.org

Omniglot, "Akan," http://www.omniglot.com/writing/akan.htm

______, "Twi," http://www.omniglot.com/writing/twi.htm

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Akan," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/aka

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables," http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/codes.asp

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2: Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: Alpha-3 codes arranged alphabetically by the English name of language," http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/php/English_list.php

Wikipedia, "Akan," https://ak.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akan

______, "Akan Language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akan_language

______, "Fante dialect," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fante_dialect

______, "Twi," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twi

______, "Twi," https://tw.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twi

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