The semantic extensions of tu ‘to uproot’/‘to pull out’ in Nzema discourse

A Conceptual Metaphoric Perspective


  • Mohammed Yakub University of Education, Winneba



semantics, verbs, communication, cultural conceptual metaphors, Nzema, Ghana


Nzema refers to both the language and the people who speak it. The language is spoken predominantly among the people who occupy the South-west part of the Western Region of Ghana as well as some parts of Côte d’Ivoire (Annan, 1980, 1994). Nzema forms part of the Niger-Congo Kwa language family. Many studies across languages have had their focus on the basic and extended usages of ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ (ingestion) verbs. Among such studies are Prins (1993), Newman (1997), Atintono and Adjei (2008), Aikhenvald (2009), Adjei (2013), Agyepong, Amfo and Osam (2017), and Otoo (2017). Several works, including Agyekum (2002, 2013, 2015a, 2015b, 2016) and Otoo (2018) have also examined the metaphorical extensions of human body parts and verbs of perception. In Nzema, however, studies on cultural schemas and conceptualisations are scanty. This paper, therefore, explores the basic and metaphorical interpretations of the disconnection verb, tu ‘to uproot’/‘to pull out’ in Nzema communication. The paper relies on Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980) with insights from ‘Cultural Conceptual Metaphors’ (Sharifian, 2011). Data were obtained from spontaneous natural speech contexts among the Nzema. Additional data were gathered by consulting other written sources like Nzema novels and drama books to extract some expressions involving the verb tu. Interviews with knowledgeable Indigenous speakers and my introspection as a native speaker were significantly brought to bear on this study. The paper finds that the basic sense of the verb is possibly projected to describe other abstract notions such as tu ahonle ‘heart uproot’ (to be afraid); tu ay?ne ‘uproot witchcraft’ (to drive a demon out of a person), tu belemgbunli ‘uproot a chief’ (to distool a chief), tu edw?k? sie (to postpone/adjourn a case), among others. The paper shows that the verb tu is ‘polysemous’, and can participate in causative/inchoative alternation.  

Author Biography

Mohammed Yakub, University of Education, Winneba

Mohammed Yakub is an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana. His research interests include morphology and syntax, semantics and pragmatics, as well as literature. His research publications appear in the International Journal of Linguistics and Literature, and the International Journal of Language and Literature.


Adjei, F. A. (2013) Verbs of ingestion and their semantics in Gbe. Journal of African Cultures and Languages 2(1): 171–188.

Agyekum, K. (2002) Lexical polysemy and metaphorical extensions of ‘te’ hear verb in Akan. Legon Journal of the Humanities 13: 99–113.

Agyekum, K. (2013) The pragmatics of mouth metaphors in Akan. Ghana Journal of Linguistics 2(1): 1–17.

Agyekum, K. (2015a) Ani ‘eye’ metaphorical expressions in Akan. Journal of West African Languages 42(1): 1–29.

Agyekum, K. (2015b) Metaphors of anger in Akan. International Journal of Language and Culture 2(1): 87–107. Doi: DOI:

Agyekum, K. (2016) Metaphors and metonyms of Nsa ‘hand’ in Akan. Pragmatics and Cognition 23(2): 300–323. Doi: DOI:

Agyepong, D. P. (2017) Cutting and breaking events in Akan. PhD. Thesis, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Agyepong, D. P., Amfo, N. A. and Osam, E. K. (2017) Literal and metaphorical usages of ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ in Akan. Nordic Journal of African Studies 26(1): 62–78.

Agyepong, D. P., and Osam, E. K. (2020) The semantics and argument realization potentials of Akan verbs of separation. Journal of West African Languages 47(1): 30–49.

Aikhenvald, A. Y. (2009) ‘Eating’, ‘drinking’ and ‘smoking’: A generic verb and its semantics in Manambu. In J. Newman (ed.) The linguistics of eating and drinking 91–108. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Doi: DOI:

Annan, J. C. (1980) The phonology of Nzema. School of Ghana Languages, Ajumako. (Unpublished Note).

Annan, J. C. (1994) Nzema Kotoko 1. Accra: Bureau of Ghana Languages.

Ansah, G. N. (2011) Metaphor and bilingual cognition: The case of Akan and English in Ghana. PhD Dissertation, Lancaster University. Doi:

Ansah, G. N. (2014) Culture in embodied cognition: Metaphorical/metonymic conceptualizations of fear in Akan and English. Metaphor and Symbol 29(1): 44–58. DOI:

Atintono, S. A. (2019) The semantic properties of separation verbs in Gurene. Journal of West African Languages 46(1): 1–31.

Atintono, S. A. and Adjei, F. A. (2008) A comparative study on the metaphorical uses of eat verbs, du in Ewe and di in Gurene. In M. Peter and B. M. Ronald (eds) Exploring the African language connections in the Americas. Proceedings of the Special World Congress of the African Linguistics 199–205. Sao Paulo: Humanitas.

Cruse, A. (2011) Meaning in language: An introduction to semantics and pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ghana Statistical Service (2012) The 2010 population and housing census. Retrieved from:>2010phc>201.

Goddard, C. (ed.) (2006) Ethno-pragmatics: A new paradigm. Griffith University. Retrievable from:

Hermanson, E. A. (2006) Metaphor in Zulu. Stellenbosch: SUN Press. Doi: DOI:

Kovecses, Z. (2002) Metaphor: A practical approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kwaw, F. E. (2008) Maandee Ye enlomboe. Accra, Anyinase: Atwe Royal Consult.

Kwaw, F. E. (2012) Adwoba Ehwia. Accra: Literature and Cultural Research Bureau.

Kwesi, P. A. A. (1992) Nzema Anee ne anwo Mgbanyidweke. Accra: Bureau of Ghana Languages.

Lakoff, G. (1993) The contemporary theory of metaphor. In A. Ortony (ed.) Metaphor and thought 202–251. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Doi: DOI:

Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1980) Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, G. and Turner, M. (1989) More than cool reason: A field guide to poetic metaphor. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Doi: DOI:

Langacker, R. W. (1994) Culture, cognition and grammar. In M. Pütz (ed.) Language contact and language conflict 25–53. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Doi: DOI:

Ndlovu, S. (2018) An Afrocentric analysis of some Zimbabwean proverbs and sayings. Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies 12(3): 126–140.

Newman, J. (1997) Eating and drinking as sources of metaphor in English. Special Issue on Cognitive Linguistics 6(2): 213–231.

Otoo, R. (2017) Metaphorical extensions of ye ‘eat’ verb: The case of Ga. International Journal of Linguistics 9(6): 132–145. Doi: DOI:

Otoo, R. (2018) Pragmatics of na ‘see’ perception verb expressions in Ga. Journal of Literature, Languages and Linguistics 42: 63–71.

Palmer, G. B. (1996) Toward a theory of cultural linguistics. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Peeters, B. (2016) APPLIED ETHNOPRAGMATICS is cultural linguistics, but is it CULTURAL LINGUISTICS? International Journal of Language and Culture 3(2): 137–160. Doi: DOI:

Prins, J. (1993) Towards a semantic analysis of du ‘eat’ in Ewe. Undergraduate Long Essay, University of Leiden.

Rababa’h, M. A. and Malkawi, N. A. A. (2012) The linguistic etiquette of greeting and leave-taking in Jordanian Arabic. European Scientific Journal 8(18): 14–28.

Semino, E. (2008) Metaphor in discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Sharifian, F. (2003) On cultural conceptualisations. Journal of Cognition and Culture 3(3): 187–207. Doi: DOI:

Sharifian, F. (2005) Cultural conceptualisations in English words. A study of Aboriginal children in Perth. Language and Education 19(1): 74–88. Doi: DOI:

Sharifian, F. (2011) Cultural Conceptualisations and Language: Theoretical Framework and Applications. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Doi: DOI:

Sharifian, F. (2014) Conceptual metaphor in intercultural communication between speakers of Aboriginal English and Australian English. In A. Mussolff and F. MacArthur (eds) Metaphor and intercultural communication 118–129. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Soboh-Blay, A. (2013) Nyamenle Asa Enlomboe Ne. Accra: Bureau of Ghana Languages.

Steen, G. (2011) The contemporary theory of metaphor – now new and improved. Review of Cognitive Linguistics 9(1): 26–64. Doi: DOI:

Thompson, R. and Agyekum, K. (2015) Impoliteness: The Ghanaian standpoint. International Journal of Society, Culture and Language 4(1): 21–33.

Umar, A. H. and Dogbey, E. (2019) Kasem metaphoric extensions of yi ‘eye’ and yuu ‘head’ expressions. International Journal of Literature and Arts 7(1): 26–31. Doi: DOI:

Yakub, M. (2019) The Semantics and metaphorical extensions of pe ‘to cut’ in Nzema communication. Paper Presented at the 12th Linguistics Association of Ghana Annual Conference at UMaT, Tarkwa (31st July to 2nd August 2019).



How to Cite

Yakub, M. (2021). The semantic extensions of tu ‘to uproot’/‘to pull out’ in Nzema discourse: A Conceptual Metaphoric Perspective. Sociolinguistic Studies, 15(1), 111–133.