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VERBAL TABOOS Taboos are words or acts that are culturally, socially and or religiously prohibited especially in public.

Hornby (1989:1306) (cited in Agyekum 2010) rightly describes it as the ban or prohibition on something regarded for religious or other reasons not to be done, touched, used etc. or a general statement not to discuss or to do something. Agyekum(2010:7) divides taboos into taboo words and act. He exemplifies this with the concept of mogyafra incest, he states that the term mogyafra is not a taboo word but the act is a taboo in the Akan society and in most societies. Also, Steadman (1935:93) divides taboo words into groups and they are; 1. Coarse or obscene words such as whore and castrate 2. Words of an unpleasant suggestion such as nude 3. Innocent words that have become contaminated such as abortion, in this group, one meaning crowds the other meanings of the word. In the first group, the usage of the word makes the speaker to appear a bit uncouth. The use of the words in the second group connotes some unpleasant ideas in the mind of the listener. Lastly, the third group becomes a taboo because of one of its meaning. THEORY There has been a number of theoretical statements on taboo words and they include; Leach (1979:156) describes taboos as sacred, valuable, important, powerful, dangerous, filthy, unmentionables etc. Radcliff Brown (1979: 50) states that taboos are anything a person, a material, a place or a word or name, an occasion or event, a day of week or period of the year , which is the object of a ritual avoidance. Every taboo is iconic. In all these theories, there is the notion of prohibition of some particular or specific utterances. This leads to who prohibits or makes some words taboos. Farb (1973:91) expound that any word is an innocent collection of sound until a community surrounds it with connotations and then decrees that it cannot be used in certain speech

situations. It is the symbolic value the specific culture attaches to the words and expressions that make them become taboo. This assertion indicates that every taboo is so because the speech community wants it to be so and therefore makes provision for its status as a taboo. The other way is also true that a taboo will not be a taboo without the backing of the speech community. This place taboos in particular communities. The avoidance of taboo words indicates a speakers communicative competence and how cultured he is. This is so because, during socialization and the learning process of a language, one needs to learn both acceptable and unacceptable forms of speech. This is to make sure taboos are avoided and proper speech patterns adhered to. Taboos and their avoidance are part of every society. Frazer (1875) (cited in Agyekum 2010) points out that taboos have contributed to the complex fabric of societies. TYPES OF VERBAL TABOOS 1. Invectives 2. Unmentionables (unspeakerables) - Sex-related words, diseases, animals, menstruation, things of filthy connotation, oaths reminiscential oath (historical), religious oaths (grevious imprecation (curse)- includes the mentioning of a deity to punish & assertive self- imprecation (nsedie akan) ), 3. CONTEXT Context is very important in taboos, it can clean a word from its prohibition and make it acceptable or tabooless. Every culture has its set of taboo words and what may be a taboo in one culture may not be in another culture, a taboo of one culture may even be ridiculous in another. For eg. In phonology undergraduate class, the mention of the schewa vowel makes some people uncomfortable because of its similar pronunciation with the Akan word hwewa scrotum. Also, among the Akans a woman in her period may not enter a Kings palace or a shrine. Agyekum (2010:6) aptly states that taboo is language and culture specific. Among the Ewes and many other cultures non-relatives are prohibited to bathe a deceased or watch the naked body. You may not be allowed to even hold the upper part of the deceaseds body while removing the body from as hearse. MOTIVATION FOR ADHERENCE

The question of why people do not ignore taboos and treat them as mere words is accurately answered by Radcliff-Brown (1979:54), that in certain circumstances the individual human being is anxious about the outcome of some event or activity because it depends to some extent on conditions that he cannot control by any technical means. For instance some words are not pronounced such as diseases like epilepsy among the Akans for fear that it may affect the speaker. A lot of the motivation is centred on the belief of the power of the spoken word that the taboo word could bring about the (re)occurrence of what the taboo word evokes. Generally, the observance is motivated by religion and or superstition. SANCTION Almost every use of a taboo word receives a sanction, whether a frown from the listener or an execution will be determined by the gravity of the taboo word. In Ghanaian societies, the breaking of a serious taboo will attract a kind of institutionalised punishment. This is in two components the earthly or human component and the spiritual component. (Agyekum 2010) In the human component, the secular or the religious leaders judge how serious the taboo is and punish the offender according. The punishment may be in the form of fines, exile or even execution. However, some offences are so serious that the spirit beings such as a deity get involve. Here, the religious leaders intervene for the offender and may do this several times before the pacification and intervention is accepted. TABOO AVOIDANCCE TECHNIQUES There are several ways in speech one can say what is intended without the use of taboo words. These are strategies and techniques to avoid the use of taboo words and these include; A. Circumlocution more words to describe a word or something in order to avoid the use of another word. This is a kind of indirection. An eg. is from Agyekum (2010)

S3 worep3 aduro de ay3 wo kunu a, osompa nie, kasad3 nie, aduane pa nie, aduane baako yi nso nie if you want to charm your husband, you need to serve him well, coax him with proper talk, serve him palatable meals and the other food is also important. Circumlocution is distinct from euphemism in the sense of it not being institutionalised and can only be understood based on the context of use.

B. Speech Play This is usually an in- group or peer group strategy adopted to say taboo words and not trigger the punishment that goes with its usage. In Ghanaian communities especially among the Akan youths, this involves the morphophonological alteration of words in an entire utterance to disguise taboo words. The consonant /k,g,or ks/ together a vowel is inserted after each syllable and the inserted vowel should be like the vowel in the syllable. This is commonly called mege sege Eg. nana y3 awee ------- taboo Naganaga y3g3 agaweegee --------- modified the chief is a thief Pun or the play on words is also a kind of speech play that is used to substitute taboo words especially in North America. Farb (1993:89) explains that this substitution is by a word with similar pronunciation to the taboo word. The speaker usually tries to do this innocently and leave to the listener to make connection to the taboo word. Farb gives this example; she was only a fishermans daughter but when she saw my rod, she reeled. - intralingual This sentence has 3 levels of meaning. 1. The daughter reeling in or bringing in a line on the fishing rod. 2. The daughter reeled or stagger backwards with fright when she saw the rod (gun). 3. The daughter was sexually aroused when she saw the rod (penis) Interlingual - atw3e ( Ga name for females) , 3tw3 vagina in Akan - between two languages.

C. Borrowing

This strategy involves the borrowing of words form one language A into language B to a taboo word in language B. Here the phenomenon of code- switching is employed. Eg. y3 re ko private ------- code-switched Y3 re ko tiefi ------taboo

we are going to private

D. Euphemism Eu good/well pheme speaking

Wardhaugh (1992:237) cited in Agyekum (2010) describes euphemism as the result of dressing areas in life to make them more presentable. Euphemism therefore is taking a taboo away and leaving in its place a more presentable word as Agyekum (ibid) perfectly calls it a surrogate verbal taboo. Euphemisms have their meanings established in the language and not contextually based. In Ghanaian societies it is a taboo to say a chief is dead and because of this there a lot of euphemistic expressions instead of the use of dead such in Akan, odupon atutu amighty tree has fallen. The use of euphemistic expressions marks one communicative competence and makes speech polite and appealing. There are analogical relationship between the euphemism and its referent. In Akan, the penis can be called gun and the womans genital is called cocoa farms.

LICENCE FOR THE USE OF TABOO WORDS Institutionalised Although every society has its own set of taboo words, in societies, there times when the ban on taboo words are lifted. For example during the Apoo festival of the Bonos of Techiman, invectives ceases to be a taboo and even the chief maybe insulted without any sanction but before and after the festival, they are strictly taboos and their usage will attract a sanction.

Also, there are some ethnic groups who have some kind of relations that make the use of invectives loose its taboo nature. Eg. Asantes and Nzema , Frafra and Dagarti, Gonja and Kasena, the groups have a kind of culture that allow them to use invectives when they meet each other but this is not extended to their kins. The person who gets angry is seen as unsociable. (Agyekum 2010).

CONCLUSION Farb (1993) states that taboo words are prohibited but are part of every speakers knowledge or vocabulary. The question is, is there any reason for the continued existence of taboo words such as the most serious taboo word in English which has been a taboo since the 1500s, the most obscene four letter word fuck. Bolton and Hutton (1995:163) (cited in Agyekum 2010) rightly states that the study of taboo language is central to any full understanding of linguistic beliefs and linguistic behaviour. Taboos words portray how creative man is with regard to his language, he finds different ways to go round the taboo word but finally arrives at the same final destination he aims without the help of the taboo word. Verbal taboos are active in the language of man because they serve their purpose and their absence will create a hole that cannot be filled but by them alone.