Ga language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
RegionSouth-eastern Ghana, around Accra
Native speakers
745,000 (2016)[1]
Latin (Ga alphabet)
Ghanaian braille
Official status
Official language in
None. Government sponsored language.
Language codes
ISO 639-2gaa
ISO 639-3gaa
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Samuel speaking Ga.

Ga is a Kwa language spoken in Ghana, in and around the capital Accra, by the Ga people. There are also some speakers in Togo, Benin and Western Nigeria. It has a phonemic distinction between three vowel lengths.


Ga is a Kwa language, part of the Niger–Congo family. It is very closely related to Adangme, and together they form the Ga–Dangme branch within Kwa.

Ga is the predominant language of the Ga people, an ethnic group of Ghana. Ethnic Ga family names (surnames) include Owoo, Lartey, Nortey, Aryee, Lamptey, Tetteh, Ankrah, Tetteyfio, Laryea, Ayitey, Okine, Bortey, Quarshie, Quaye, Quaynor, Ashong, Kotei, Clottey, Nai, Sowah, Odoi, Maale, Ako, Adjetey, Annang, Yemoh,and Abbey.

Geographic distribution[edit]

Ga is spoken in south-eastern Ghana, in and around the capital Accra. It has relatively little dialectal variation. Although English is the official language of Ghana, Ga is one of 16 languages in which the Bureau of Ghana Languages publishes material.



Ga has 31 consonant phonemes.

Consonant phonemes
  Labial Dental Postalveolar
and palatal
Velar Labial-
Plain Labialized Plain Lab.v Plain Lab.
Nasal m n ɲ   ŋ   ŋ͡m  
Stop p b t d tʃʷ dʒʷ k ɡ ɡʷ k͡p ɡ͡b  
Fricative f v s z ʃ   ʃʷ               h
Approximant   l j ɥ     w  
  • [ŋʷ] is an allophone of /w/ which occurs before nasals and is represented with its own digraph in writing.
  • /l/ may be realised as [ɹ] when between a consonant and vowel
  • /j/ has an allophone [ɲ] before nasal vowels


Ga has seven oral vowels and five nasal vowels. All of the vowels have three different vowel lengths: short, long or extra long (the latter appears only in the simple future and the simple past negative forms).

Front Central Back
oral nasal oral nasal oral nasal
Close i ĩ     u ũ
Close-mid e       o  
Open-mid ɛ ɛ̃     ɔ ɔ̃
Open     a ã    


Ga has two tones, high and low. Like many West African languages, it has tone terracing.


The syllable structure of Ga is (C)(C)V(C), where the second phoneme of an initial consonant cluster can only be /l/ and a final consonant may only be a (short or long) nasal consonant, e.g. ekome, "one", V-CV-CV; kakadaŋŋ, "long", CV-CV-CVC; mli, "inside", CCV. Ga syllables may also consist solely of a syllabic nasal, for example in the first syllable of ŋshɔ, "sea".

Writing system[edit]

Ga was first written in about 1764, by Christian Jacob Protten (1715–1769), who was the son of a Danish soldier and a Ga woman.[2][3][4][5] Protten was a Gold Coast Euro-African Moravian missionary and educator in the eighteenth century. In the mid-1800s, the Germany missionary, Johannes Zimmermann (1825–1876), assisted by the Gold Coast historian, Carl Christian Reindorf (1834–1917) and others, worked extensively on the grammar of the language, published a dictionary and translated the entire Bible into the Ga language.[6][7][8][9] The orthography has been revised a number of times since 1968, with the most recent review in 1990.

The writing system is a Latin-based alphabet and has 26 letters. It has three additional letter symbols which correspond to the IPA symbols. There are also eleven digraphs and two trigraphs. Vowel length is represented by doubling or tripling the vowel symbol, e.g. 'a', 'aa' and 'aaa'. Tones are not represented. Nasalisation is represented after oral consonants where it distinguishes between minimal pairs.

The Ga alphabet is: Aa, Bb, Dd, Ee, Ɛɛ, Ff, Gg, Hh, Ii, Jj, Kk, Ll, Mm, Nn, Ŋŋ, Oo, Ɔɔ, Pp, Rr, Ss, Tt, Uu, Vv, Ww, Yy, Zz

The following letters represent sounds which do not correspond with the same letter as the IPA symbol (e.g. B represents /b/):

  • J j - /d͡ʒ/
  • Y y - /j/

Digraphs and trigraphs:

  • Gb gb - /ɡ͡b/
  • Gw gw - /ɡʷ/
  • Hw hw - /hʷ/
  • Jw jw - /d͡ʒʷ/
  • Kp kp - /k͡p/
  • Kw kw - /kʷ/
  • Ny ny - /ɲ/
  • Ŋm ŋm - /ŋ͡m/
  • Ŋw ŋw - [ŋʷ] (an allophone rather than a phoneme)
  • Sh sh - /ʃ/
  • Ts ts - /t͡ʃ/
  • Shw shw - /ʃʷ/
  • Tsw tsw - /t͡ʃʷ/

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ga at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Smith, Noel. "Christian Jacob Protten". Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  3. ^ Dreydoppel, Otto. "Christian Jacob Protten". Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  4. ^ Sebald, Peter (1994). "Christian Jacob Protten Africanus (1715-1769) - erster Missionar einer deutschen Missionsgesellschaft in Schwarzafrika". Kolonien und Missionen. (in German): 109–121. OCLC 610701345.
  5. ^ "This Month in Moravian History: Christian Protten - Missionary to the Gold Coast of Africa" (PDF). Moravian Archives (74). Bethlehem, PA. June 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 September 2016. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  6. ^ "Johannes Zimmerman". Archived from the original on 2017-11-24. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  7. ^ "Zimmermann, Johannes – Life and work – Johannes-Rebmann-Stiftung". Archived from the original on 2017-11-24. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  8. ^ Reindorf, Carl Christian (1895). History of the Gold Coast and Asante, Based on Traditions and Historical Facts: Comprising a Period of More Than Three Centuries from about 1500 to 1860. The author. ISBN 9780598937520.
  9. ^ Reindorf, Carl Christian (2018-04-21). History of the Gold Coast and Asante (Classic Reprint). LULU Press. ISBN 9781330819852.


  • M. E. Kropp Dakubu, ed. (1977). West African Language Data Sheets Vol 1. West African Linguistic Society.
  • M. E. Kropp Dakubu, ed. (1988). The Languages of Ghana. London: Kegan Paul International for the International African Institute. ISBN 0-7103-0210-X.
  • M. E. Kropp Dakubu (1999). Ga-English dictionary with English-Ga Index. Accra: Black Mask Ltd. ISBN 9964-960-50-6.
  • M. E. Kropp Dakubu (2002). Ga Phonology. Legon: Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana.
  • Bureau of Ghana Languages (1995). Ga Wiemɔ Kɛ Ŋmaa. Accra:Bureau of Ghana Languages. ISBN 9964-2-0276-8.
  • A. A. Amartey (1989). Beginners' Ga. Ga Society.
  • Campbell, Akua Asantewaa (2017). A Grammar of Gã (Doctor of Philosophy thesis). Rice University. hdl:1911/102269.

External links[edit]