About Western Sisaala

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The content of this page was developed from the data and technical notes of Steven Moran.

Introduction

Western Sisaala is a previously undocumented language of approximately 6,000 speakers in Ghana's remote Upper West Region. It is spoken in Lambussie and surrounding villages, and belongs to the Southern Grusi branch of the Gur language family of the Niger-Congo phylum.

Sisaala language map

Sisaala family tree

Phonology and Grammar

There are twenty-three consonant and nine vowel phonemes in Western Sisaala. Tone is either high or low, and is both lexical and grammtical in the language. Syllables carry tone and have the structure: V, CV(V), CV(V)C. Western Sisaala also has syllabic nasals, and though nasal assimilation has been identified as an allophonic rule in the language, other productive phonological rules are still under investigation.

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In Western Sisaala, noun phrases are left-headed and are composed of a free morpheme and optional inflectional bound morphemes. Like most Niger-Congo languages, it has noun classes that were historically semantically based. However, over time semantic oppositions have overlapped to such a degree that the original boundaries are no longer clear.

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Culture

The majority of Western Sisaala speakers live in Lambussie. Historically, Sisaalas were farmers, and they inherited their lands from their ancestors. Today approximately 80% of Sisaalas in Lambussie and surrounding areas are farmers by profession. Those who live and grow up in Lambussie learn to speak Western Sisaala as a first language and later learn English and Dagaare in school. English is the official language of Ghana and is taught in schools and is spoken at least functionally by most individuals.

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Sisaala Languages

There are four Sisaala languages spoken in the Upper West Region of northwestern Ghana and in the adjoining areas of southern Burkina Faso: Western Sisaala, Sisaala Tumulung, Sisaala Pasaale, and Sissala. This section aims to disambiguate these four languages, which because of different levels of unidentified mutual intelligibility, have been historically considered dialects of one Sisaala language. More investigation is needed to establish the exact nature of the continuum between the languages and the possibility of a fifth Sisaala language.

More on Sisaala languages

Follow the path of the Sisaala Data

  1. Get started: Summary of the Sisaala conversion
  2. Digitize Text: Text section (Classroom)
  3. Create a Database: XML section (Classroom)
  4. Digitize Audio: Audio section (Classroom)
  5. Digitize Video: Video section (Classroom)
  6. Register Metadata: Metadata section (Classroom)

User Contributed Notes
E-MELD School of Best Practices: About Western Sisaala
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