A sociolinguistic survey of the Gbe language communities of Benin and Togo, Volume 1: Kpési language area

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Durieux-Boon, Evelin I. K., Jude A. Durieux, Deborah H. Hatfield and Bonnie J. Henson
This paper presents a sociolinguistic survey conducted in the Kpési language communities (Kwa language family) of Togo. The Gbe languages continuum is situated in the southeastern part of West Africa. Expanding westwards from southwestern Nigeria, the Gbe communities occupy large areas in southern Benin, Togo and southeastern Ghana. To date in Togo, as far as Gbe varieties are concerned, Ewe has undergone language development on a larger scale. Another variety of the Gbe continuum which has undergone language development on a larger scale in Benin is Gen. A survey of the Kpési communities was conducted to assess whether and to what extent existing literature and literacy efforts in Ewe and Gen (both of which are closely related to Kpési) could extend to the Kpési communities and to determine the nature and extent of SIL’s possible involvement among these communities. After a general overview of the taxonomic and geographic language situation, test results are reported. Survey interview and group test results are presented on comprehension of Ewe and Gen. Results are given on language attitudes toward both written and oral forms of Ewe and Gen and toward the development of Kpési. In addition, the following topics were investigated: language vitality, the relationship of Kpési to related Gbe varieties in terms of comprehension and language attitudes, and reported proficiency in Ifè, Tem and Kabiyé. Also, information by local leaders on the literacy and religious situations and on migration history is given. The group comprehension test results show, at least preliminarily, that the Kpési have a high level of comprehension of both Ewe and Gen. Reported attitudes toward Ewe and Gen in general and toward the ongoing Ewe literacy efforts are positive even though the preference everywhere is for literacy in Kpési. Given the institutional support for Ewe literacy but not for Gen in the region, the findings of this survey suggest that Ewe literacy might be a workable solution for the literacy needs of the Kpési-speaking region provided that this institutional support is adequate. Regarding Kpéis language vitality, there is no indication of language shift.
32 pages
Language surveys
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