Why Akan speakers have L and R problem

Language is beautiful to analyze. Several linguistic sounds distinguish one language speaker from another

Apr 4, 2023 - 04:57
 0  179
Why Akan speakers have L and R problem


By Elijah Asuo Wiredu

Language is beautiful to analyze. There a number of linguistic sounds that distinguishes one language speaker from another. Some sounds are only found in one language. Others can be found in many but not all languages. In the northern part of Ghana, some ethnic groups cannot pronounce the sound /∫/ which is written as /sh/. Speakers of such languages pronounce “wash” as “was” and “sure” as “sure”. Native speakers of Ga also find it difficult to pronounce “h”. Native speakers of Ga therefore pronounce “heat” as “eat” and “how” as /aw/.


Speakers of Akan are fond of using /l/ and /r/ interchangeably. They are most teased in Ghana for making constructions such as “blown blead” for “brown bread”. Back in college, a good friend said “normarry, when we talk of, metaboric waste substances …” instead of “normally, when we talk of metabolic waste substances …”

The l and r problem of Akan speakers can be explained with two terms of linguistics- minimal pairs and free variations. They are expressions that are opposite in meaning. When two sounds can be used interchangeably without making mistakes, those sounds are said to be in free variation. For example in Akan, when one pronounces /l/ instead of /r/, the meaning of the word is not affected. For example saying “Bla ma yenpla” is the same as “Bra ma yenpra” which come and let’s sweep. But the same sounds /l/ and /r/ are not in free variation in English so it becomes wrong when used in English language this way.  For example, given the word “read”, when you replace /r/ with /l/, you get “lead” and meaning changes entirely. So in English Language, /l/ and /r/ are not free variants. They are rather minimal pairs.

Why don’t you try to read these tongue twisters?

·        Free flight from France to Florida.

·        I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream

·        Near an ear, a nearer ear, a nearly eerie ear

What's Your Reaction?