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SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2008-023

The Gbe language varieties of West Africa: a quantitative analysis of lexical and grammatical features

Author  Kluge, Angela
Abstract 

This dissertation presents the findings of a quantitative analysis of lexical and grammatical features elicited among the Gbe language varieties of West Africa.

The analysis is embedded in a larger sociolinguistic study of the Gbe language continuum initiated by the Togo-Benin branch of SIL International, a non-governmental organization that facilitates language-based development. The main objective of this larger study is to assess whether a greater number of Gbe communities could benefit from literacy efforts already existing in some of these communities or whether additional development programs in some of the remaining communities would be advisable. Within the context of this larger study, word and phrase lists were elicited in 49 Gbe varieties of Benin, Ghana and Togo to assess the degree of linguistic similarity and the clustering of these varieties and to establish priorities for further sociolinguistic research. Having been involved in the SIL study since 1992, the author has previously conducted a preliminary analysis of the elicited word and phrase lists that focused on the computation of percentage matrices for lexical and grammatical similarity.

Building on the author’s previous preliminary analysis, the focus of this dissertation is the quantitative analysis of these previously computed similarity matrices. This analysis, conducted with hierarchical cluster analysis and multidimensional scaling, has as its main objectives to identify clusters of Gbe varieties, to explore whether and to what extent the analysis of the elicited word and phrase lists yields comparable results, and to establish priorities for further, more in-depth studies of the Gbe communities.

The findings of this analysis indicate a western, a central and an eastern grouping of Gbe varieties with the results further indicating larger sub-clusters for the western and eastern varieties. However, with regard to the grouping of the Gbe varieties within these sub-clusters, several disparities show up between the word- and phrase-list computations as well as between the results of the statistical methods applied.

Although both hierarchical cluster analysis and multidimensional scaling prove valid exploratory tools to identify the clustering of the Gbe varieties, the comparison of the suggested groupings with the actual similarity calculations suggests that multidimensional scaling reflects the structure of the data more accurately than does cluster analysis. Furthermore, the findings suggest that multidimensional scaling of the word- and phrase-list computations yields comparable results for the grouping of the Gbe varieties, whereas the comparability of the results of the cluster analysis is questionable. The disparities identified between the word- and phrase2 list computations upon which the grouping of the Gbe varieties is based serve to indicate where more in-depth research among the Gbe varieties should be conducted.


In the interest of making this work available without further delay, we are posting it as it was accepted by the institution that granted the degree. It has not been peer reviewed.

  The Gbe language varieties of West Africa: a quantitative analysis of lexical and grammatical features
Published  2008
Language  Éwé [ewe]
Countries  Benin
Ghana
Togo
Subjects  Comparative and historical studies
Language surveys
Linguistics
Sociolinguistics
Keywords  lexical similarities; hierarchical cluster analysis; multidimensional scaling; grammatical similarities sub-clusters; Language surveys; Comparative and historical studies