A sociolinguistic survey of the Gbe language communities of Benin and Togo, Volume 4: Xwela language area

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Henson, Bonnie J., Eric C. Johnson and Angela Kluge
This paper presents a sociolinguistic survey conducted in the Xwela language communities (Kwa language family) of Benin. 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 Benin, as far as Gbe varieties are concerned, Aja, Fon, Gen and Gun have undergone language development on a larger scale. A survey of the Xwela communities was conducted to assess whether and to what extent existing literature and literacy efforts in Fon and Gen could extend to the Xwela 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 Fon and Gen. Results are given on language attitudes toward both written and oral forms of Fon and Gen and toward the development of Xwela. In addition, the following topics were investigated: language vitality and the relationship of Xwela to related Gbe varieties in terms of comprehension and language attitudes. 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 Xwela have good comprehension of both Fon and Gen. Though the preference everywhere is for literacy in Xwela, Fon and Gen literacy (Fon to the south and east of the language area and Gen to the west) appears to be a workable solution for literacy needs in the Xwela speech communities provided there is adequate institutional support. However, there are some doubts as to the Xwela people’s attitudes toward Fon and toward literacy in general. Regarding Xwela language vitality, there are no indications of language shift.
48 pages
Language surveys
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