Lexical Inventiveness in Ghanaian Socio-Political Discourse: The Form, Meaning and Motivation for Dumsor and Dumsor-Based Neologisms

  • Clement K. I. Appah University of Ghana
  • Jemima Asabea Anderson University of Ghana
Keywords: Affixation; Blending;, Compounding; Dumsor; Lexical Inventiveness; Neologisms;, Word Formation


Lexical expansion may be triggered by different factors. A recent case of protracted intermittent power outages in Ghana gave rise to dumsor, an Akan word which means 'turn off' and 'turn on'. This word spawned many neologisms, some of which became part of the political discourse in Ghana at the time.
However, very few of the neologisms are actually in use because the situation that gave rise to them no longer exists and the formation of most of them was purely jocular. Based on data collected from Facebook posts and status updates, this paper discusses what is called the dumsor lexicon and the morphological and sociolinguistic motivations for the formation of the dumsor-based neologisms. First, we observe that the motivation for the linguistic behaviour that spawns such neologisms is consistent with the light heartedness of Ghanaians. We show that the neologisms fall into various semantic classes and that the morphological processes of compounding and affixation are employed predominantly but dumsor itself is partially anglicized and the affixes employed in the derivation of the neologisms are of English origin, because Akan, from which dumsor emanates, lacks equivalent affixes. Additionally, we observe that the use of English affixes could be because the originators of the neologisms either did not know alternative processes in Akan that could yield the same result or possibly did not find them useful because of the multilingual setting of the platform. Thus, we argue that the morphology of the neologisms and the range of items and concept they refer to betray the possible social backgrounds of the originators of the words and the multilingual setting of the linguistic behaviour.

Author Biographies

Clement K. I. Appah, University of Ghana

Dr. Appah is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and Coordinator of the Chinese Section of the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Ghana . His research interests include Morphological theory and word formation, evaluative morphology, numeral formations and serial verbs constructions.

Jemima Asabea Anderson, University of Ghana

Dr. Anderson is Senior Lecturer and Head of Department of English at the University of Ghana. Her research interests include codification of Ghanaian English, language and migration in Ghana, cross-cultural pragmatics of non-natives varieties of English, politenes/impoliteness in English in Ghana, and language choice and usage in Ghana.