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Ewe

Population 1,615,700 in Ghana (1991), 13% of the population (1990 WA). Population total both countries 2,477,600 (1991 L. Vanderaa CRC). Including second language users: 3,000,000 (1999 WA).
Region Southeast corner. Also spoken in Togo.
Alternate names   EIBE, EBWE, EVE, EFE, EUE, VHE, GBE, KREPI, KREPE, POPO
Dialects ANGLO, AWUNA, HUDU, KOTAFOA.
Classification Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Kwa, Left Bank, Gbe.
Comments Language of wider communication. Grammar. Literacy rate in first language: 30% to 60%. Literacy rate in second language: 75% to 100%. Roman. Christian, traditional religion. Bible 1913-1931.

The Ewe occupy southeastern Ghana and the southern parts of neighboring Togo and Benin. On the west, the Volta separates the Ewe from the Ga-Adangbe, Ga, and Akan. Subdivisions of the Ewe include the Anglo (Anlo), Bey (Be), and Gen on the coast, and the Peki, Ho, Kpando, Tori, and Ave in the interior. Oral tradition suggests that the Ewe immigrated into Ghana before the midfifteenth century. Although the Ewe have been described as a single language group, there is considerable dialectic variation. Some of these dialects are mutually intelligible, but only with difficulty.

Unlike the political and social organization of the Akan, where matrilineal rule prevails, the Ewe are essentially a patrilineal people. The founder of a community became the chief and was usually succeeded by his paternal relatives. The largest independent political unit was a chiefdom, the head of which was essentially a ceremonial figure who was assisted by a council of elders. Chiefdoms ranged in population from a few hundred people in one or two villages to several thousand in a chiefdom with a large number of villages and surrounding countryside. Unlike the Asante among the Akan, no Ewe chiefdom gained hegemonic power over its neighbor. The rise of Ewe nationalism in both Ghana and Togo was more of a reaction to the May 1956 plebiscite that partitioned Eweland between the Gold Coast and Togo than to any sense of overriding ethnic unity.

Substantial differences in local economies were characteristic of the Ewe. Most Ewe were farmers who kept some livestock, and there was some craft specialization. On the coast and immediately inland, fishing was important, and local variations in economic activities permitted a great deal of trade between one community and another, carried out chiefly by women.

Appendix: Revisions/Corrections/Opinions

  • Correction by [email protected], MORGAN NYENDU, EMMANUEL AGBOLOSOO
  • Email corrections to: webmaster

External Sites

  • Ewe Rituals
  • Ewe Multicultural Association of Ontario

Bibliography about this language:

Akuetey, Caesar. 1995. “Are `le’ and `li’ dialectal variants in the Ewe language?.”

Akuetey, Caesar. 1998/1999. “A preliminary of Yeegbe: Animist cult language in Eweland.”

Callow, John C. 1973. “Two approaches to the analysis of meaning.”

Duthie, Alan S. 1993. “Semantic diversity in Ewe words.”

Dzameshie, Alex K. 1998/1999. “Structures of coordination in Ewe.”

Neeley, Paul. 1997. Review of African Rhythm: A northern Ewe perspective, by Agawu, Kofi.

Ring, J. Andrew. 1981. Ewe as a second language: A sociolinguistic survey of Ghana’s central Volta region.

Ring, J. Andrew. 1991. “Three case studies involving dialect standardization strategies in northern Ghana.”

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