A study of the tradition of funeral dirges among the Tepa people of Ashanti

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The requirements of social life often impose forms of linguistic behaviour on individuals or groups of individuals in given situations to which are attached values that appear to govern their continued practice. The study of verbal expressions in such situations is important not only for a clearer understanding of problems of meaning in a language, but also for a deeper understanding of a people’s life from which their meaning is ultimately derived. In the social life of the Tepa people, one such situation is the singing of funeral dirges. This genre isolated for study in this work, takes its place alongside other social expressions. in the study of the Tepa funeral dirges therefore, an eclectic method has been a guiding principle. The dirge’s context of situation and its meaning in social life, its performance, its themes, language, structure, style of presentation, scope for creativity, its links with other texts of Akan oral literature as well as the dirge’s future, form the framework within which this poetic expression is examined and discussed. In doing this only some examples of dirge pieces had been given from a huge field. I have had to omit details, which may be of interest to specialists who may point out the exceptions and omissions in the fields touched on. It is hoped that the broad outlines presented in this exploratory work will nevertheless be of general interest even to such people. Notably, this research is based only on the more obvious sources and it is not intended as a comprehensive account but rather as an introduction, presenting the Tepa funeral dirge as part of the people’s oral literature which is worthy of study and interest, and to provoke further research in this fascinating but often neglected field.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Languages, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Master of Arts, 2003