Acquisition of consonants among typically developing Akan-speaking children: A preliminary report

Int J Speech Lang Pathol. 2020 Dec;22(6):626-636. doi: 10.1080/17549507.2020.1825804. Epub 2020 Dec 18.


Purpose: Although Akan is one of the most widely spoken indigenous languages in Ghana, very little is known about children's phonological development. This paper investigates the development of consonants in Akan among typically developing children aged 3-5 years.

Method: A list of 103 Akan words was compiled, sampling the full range of prosodic structures, sound positions, features and segments, and controlling for word familiarity. A native Akan speaker audio-recorded the 103 single-word productions from each of nine typically developing children aged 3-5 years. The child productions were transcribed and analysed following procedures used in a larger cross-linguistic study. The current study presents results on the acquisition of consonants across the various ages.

Result: Preliminary results indicate that most consonants in Akan are mastered by age 4 or 5, similar to reports for other languages, although /w/ and /l/ showed late mastery, contrary to cross-linguistic observations. The rhotic /ɹ/ and consonants with secondary articulation were still developing at age 4 and showing a variety of mismatch patterns across children.

Conclusion: The findings provide preliminary information for developmentalists and speech-language pathologists on typical phonological development in Akan and contribute to a growing database on language acquisition in Niger-Congo languages.

Keywords: Akan; Niger-Congo languages; consonant acquisition; phonological development; typical development.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Language
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Language Development
  • Language Development Disorders*
  • Phonetics*
  • Speech Production Measurement