Regional variation in Ghanaian Student Pidgin

Use and attitudes


  • Elisabeth Hampel University of Bonn



Student Pidgin, African youth languages, language attitudes, language ecology, Ghana


Student Pidgin (SP) is an African youth language practice among Ghanaian students and graduates. It originated in cities along the Ghanaian coast, where most empirical research on SP has been conducted so far. Little is known about the use of SP in other regions of the country. The present paper aims to fill that research gap by comparing reported use and language attitudes of students in Ghana’s two largest cities, the capital Accra and Kumasi, capital of the Ashanti region. The cities have a comparable number of inhabitants, but are located in different regions of Ghana. Over two hundred high school and university students answered a written questionnaire or participated in qualitative interviews. The results show significant regional differences both in reported use and attitudes towards the youth language, which can be explained by the different language ecologies of Kumasi and Accra.

Author Biography

Elisabeth Hampel, University of Bonn

Elisabeth Hampel obtained an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Bonn, Germany, where she also worked as a research assistant in the English Department. Her research interests include African youth languages, crosscultural pragmatics and postcolonial studies. She has previously published in the Journal of Politeness Research. 


Abdulaziz, M. H., and Osinde, K. (1997) Sheng and Engsh: development of mixed codes among the urban youth in Kenya. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 125: 43--63. DOI:

Addei Adjei, R. (2015) The use of pidgin English among Senior High School students in Adidome. Unpublished Master's thesis. University of Ghana, Legon.

Akrasi, E. (1992) A dictionary of student slang. Unpublished Bachelor's thesis. University of Science and Technology, Kumasi.

Albakry, M. A., and Ofori, D. M. (2011) Ghanaian English and code-switching in Catholic churches. World Englishes 30(4): 515--532. DOI:

Amoako, J. K. Y. B. (1992) Ghanaian Pidgin English: in search of diachronic, synchronic, and sociolinguistic evidence. Unpublished PhD dissertation. University of Florida.

Baiden, A. B. (2013) Word-formation processes in Student Pidgin on the University of Ghana campus. Unpublished Master's thesis, University of Ghana, Legon.

Bodomo, A. (1996) On language and development in Africa: the case of Ghana. Nordic Journal of African Studies 5(2): 31--51.

Castells, M. (2010) The Power of Identity. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Dadzie, A. (1985) Pidgin in Ghana: a rhetorical consideration of its origin and development. In F. O. Ugboajah (ed.) Mass Communication, Culture and Society in West Africa 113--121. Munich: Hans Zell.

Dako, K. (2002) Student Pidgin (SP): the language of the educated male elite. Research Review NS 18(2): 53--62. DOI:

Dako, K. (2013) Student Pidgin: a masculine code encroached on by young women. In L. L. Atanga, S. E. Ellece, L. Litosseliti and J. Sunderland (eds) Gender and Language in Sub-Saharan Africa 217--232. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI:

Dako, K. and Bonnie, R. (2014) ‘I go SS; I go Vas’. Student Pidgin: a Ghanaian youth language of secondary and tertiary institutions. In H. Kotthoff and C. Mertzlufft (eds) Jugendsprachen: Stilisierungen, Identitäten, Mediale Ressourcen 115--126. Frankfurt am Main: Lang-Ed.

Githiora, C. (2002) Sheng: peer language, Swahili dialect or emerging Creole? Journal of African Cultural Studies 15(2): 159--181. DOI:

Guerini, F. (2008). Multilingualism and language attitudes in Ghana: a preliminary survey. Ethnorema 4(3). Retrieved on 12 February 2018 from

Hampel, E. (2017) "It creates an atmosphere of freedom": functions of and attitudes towards Ghanaian Student Pidgin. Unpublished Master’s thesis. University of Bonn.

Hollington, A. and Nassenstein, N. (2015) Youth language practices in Africa as creative manifestations of fluid repertoires and markers of speakers' social identity. In N. Nassenstein and A. Hollington (eds) Youth Language Practices in Africa and Beyond 1--22. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter Mouton. DOI:

Huber, M. (1999) Ghanaian Pidgin English in its West African Context. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. DOI:

Kerswill, P. (2011) Youth languages in Africa and Europe: linguistic subversion or emerging vernaculars? Presentation in Porto Novo, Benin, July 2011.

Kiessling, R. and Mous, M. (2004) Urban youth languages in Africa. Anthropological Linguistics 46(3): 303--341.

Kube-Barth, S. (2009) The multiple facets of the urban language form, Nouchi. In F. Mc Laughlin (ed.) The Languages of Urban Africa 103--114. London/New York: Continuum.

Mensah, E. (2016) The dynamics of youth language in Africa: an introduction. Sociolinguistic Studies 10(1-2): 1--14. DOI:

Momanyi, C. (2009). The effect of 'Sheng' in the teaching of Kiswahili in Kenyan Schools. The Journal of Pan African Studies 2(8): 127--138.

Owu-Ewie, C. and Edu-Buandoh, D. F. (2014) Living with negative attitudes towards the study of L1 in Ghanaian Senior High Schools. Ghana Journal of Linguistics 3(2): 1--25. DOI:

Pipkins, D. (2004). Pidgin! Make we hear your speak, make we know why chaw students dey luv you. African Diaspora ISPs Paper 57. Retrieved on 8 February 2018 from

Rupp, L. (2013). The function of Student Pidgin in Ghana. English Today 29(4): 13--22. DOI:

Simons, G. and Fennig, C. D. (2018) Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Twenty-first edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Retrieved on 21January 2018 from



How to Cite

Hampel, E. (2020). Regional variation in Ghanaian Student Pidgin: Use and attitudes. Sociolinguistic Studies, 14(3), 299–320.