Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Linguistics Program

Committee Chair

Irene Appelbaum


frame of reference, coordinate system, location, semantics, linguistics, Gã, NIger-Congo


University of Montana


This thesis presents a comprehensive description and analysis of Gã coordinate systems. Gã is spoken primarily in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and no previous research on Gã has addressed the specific type of locative language described as coordinate systems (Lewis, Simmons, & Fennig, 2013). The current study is based on a corpus of Gã locative descriptions collected through interview-style elicitation sessions with a Gã speaker. Analysis of this corpus has revealed coordinate system morphemes ŋwɛ͂ı͂ ‘up’, shĩshĩ ‘down’, hı͂ɛ͂ ‘front’, sɛ̀ɛ̀ ‘back’, nı͂nè-jwurɔ͂ ‘right’, and àbɛ̀kú ‘left’. In describing the use of these morphemes I use Levinson’s (2003) framework of locative language and coordinate systems. I propose that Gã uses the Intrinsic and Relative Frame of Reference types of coordinate systems. Additional characteristics of Gã coordinate systems include the use of intrinsic systems based on an entity’s functional characteristics and occasionally on fixed armatures, and the use of ‘left’ and ‘right’ in conceptual areas, an extension from the names of hands to relative space in a visual field. My analysis of the Gã data also reveals weaknesses in parts of Levinson’s framework—i.e., subtypes of the Relative Frame of Reference cannot be disambiguated, and deictic locative descriptions cannot be considered entirely separate from the Relative Frame of Reference. This analysis contributes to theories of locative language and also contributes to documentation of Gã.



© Copyright 2014 Kurt Erbach