Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, Dean, School of Languages has delivered an inaugural lecture on the topic Beyond Babel: Communicating in Context and Across Domains.
The lecture which marked the third inaugural lecture for the 2018/2019 academic year was chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu.
In her introduction, Prof. Amfo explained that linguistic structures like words, phrases, sentences and longer utterances, whether spoken or written are carefully chosen by speakers to reflect their intent and to direct the addressee in such a way that misinterpretation is minimised. She also indicated that language is inextricably linked to culture and thought.
In expounding on the meaning of pragmatics, a sub-discipline of linguistics, Prof. Amfo noted that pragmatics is the science of language use based on an interdisciplinary sense as a functional perspective on language and communication.
The functional perspective of language, she indicated, was based on the cognitive process and culture of society. Prof. Amfo also revealed that studies within sub-disciplines allow practitioners to interrogate linguistic strategies at different levels and examine how they influence the behaviour and practices of language users.
Drawing on her past and on-going research, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo provided an overview that pragmatics can be employed at both formal and social levels within a multilingual African context.
According to her, the study of language use in context is not restricted to the formal level of language study but also in the social level such as gender, politics, religion and health.
In examining the issue of language and gender, Prof. Amfo demonstrated how the Akan language is used to create, sustain and legitimize gender roles in society. With regard to language and health, Prof. Amfo explained that language reflects societal views of some medical conditions citing an example with mental illness.
She indicated that language may affect the management of such conditions and also enhance or limit access to healthcare, particularly within multilingual communities.
In her concluding remarks, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo emphasised that language reflects human thought and that our cultural and behavioural practices emanate from there. Prof. Amfo also noted that the study of linguistics in specific domains provides a basis for appreciation of the thoughts of particular communities.
In his remarks, Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, Vice-Chancellor of the University and Chairman for the occasion, cautioned all Ghanaians to be mindful of their utterances, since according to him, just one utterance can plunge the entire nation into a state of chaos. He advocated for the use of soothing words to help ease the pain and sufferings of individuals.
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, Vice-Chancellor of the University
Earlier in her opening remarks, Mercy Haizel-Ashia, Registrar of the University affirmed that every academic who achieves the highest rank of Professor in the University was expected to deliver an inaugural lecture.
The Inaugural lecture, she acknowledged, offers the University an opportunity to distinguish and showcase the academic achievements of its staff, as well as enable the Professor to celebrate their scholarly works.
The Registrar indicated that Prof. Nana Appiah Aba Amfo’s Inaugural lecture also brings recognition to the Department of Linguistics and the College of Humanities for producing yet another Professor.
Mercy Haizel-Ashia, Registrar of the University
A number of presentations were made to Prof. Amfo to congratulate her on her achievement. These included the College of Humanities, the School of Languages, the Department of Linguistics, the University of Ghana Alumni Council, the Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA), the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) Ghana Alumni, Holy Child Past Students Association (HOPSA ’88), Linguistics Association of Ghana, the University of Ghana Basic Schools, Mensah Sarbah Hall, Praise Community Church, Women’s Ministry of Praise Community Church, ‘Academic Sisters’, the Appiah Family (Siblings of Prof Amfo) and the Amfo family.
In attendance were Provosts, Deans and Directors, members of the University community as well as the general public.
Preceding Prof. Nana Appiah Aba Amfo’s Inaugural lecture was a week-long exhibition of her scholarly works held at the Balme Library. The exhibition focused on her research interest in formal pragmatics relating to pragmatics markers, information structure and lexical pragmatics; social pragmatics on language and health, language and gender, language and politics and multilingualism and general linguistics.