A sociolinguistic survey of the Gbe language communities of Benin and Togo, Volume 10: Gbesi language area

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Schoch, Gabi
This paper presents a sociolinguistic survey conducted in the Gbesi 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 Gbesi communities was conducted to assess whether and to what extent existing literature and literacy efforts in Fon, Gen, and Gun could extend to the Gbesi 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, Gen, and Gun. Results are given on language attitudes toward both written and oral forms of Fon, Gen, and Gun and toward the development of Gbesi. In addition, the following topics were investigated: language vitality and the relationship of Gbesi 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 Gbesi have good comprehension of Fon and either Gun or Gen, depending on the region. Though the preference everywhere is for literacy in Gbesi, literacy programs in either Fon or Gun are acceptable to most people. Therefore, Fon or Gun literacy appears to be a workable solution for literacy needs in the Gbesi speech communities provided that there is adequate institutional support. As regards Gbesi language vitality, there are no indications of language shift.
49 pages
Language surveys
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