We are very happy to announce the next talk in the Phonology Colloquium, which will take place on Wednesday, February 13, 4 – 6 pm in IG 4.301.

Prof. Firmin Ahoua (University Félix Houphouët-Boigny) will present “ACO, The Secret language of the Cama people”.


Aco is a secret language spoken by the Ébrié (camancan) of Côte d’Ivoire that has never been documented, described or discovered by previous scholars who worked on the language and culture. This language is shared only by a closed circle of initiated speakers. The language is strongly ritualized and sacred and is performed with particular rhythms and songs during specific events. It is claimed to be used for incantations of protection against physical or spiritual enemies, songs for entertainment and also in traditional narratives. The initiated speakers are able to communicate on daily needs in this language as any regular native language. According to oral tradition, this language is assumed to have been created by a family in the village of Diapou in the South of Côte d’Ivoire about 100 years ago. The questions raised by the analysis of the data are : Is Aco an entirely new language by itself, or is it mixed or a pidgin or a creole type (cf. Crystal (2001)? What are its components or of which languages it is composed of? Is it entirely artificial or new? Is it a coded language like the French Verlan or an argot? How many Ebrie words are included in this artificially created language? Our hypothesis is that Aco is a new language with its own status. Our study relates to similar works achieved in West Africa by Mel (1981) on the Selu language, Dakubu (2013), Atchade (1991) and Affognon (1993) but shows that Aco is a more elaborated language, and not an argot as Krakagbe (cf. Atchade (1991) because of its large percentage of new foreign vocabulary. The data has been collected at the the Université Houphouet-Boigny and is composed of a lexion of Aco (ca. 600 words) and a collection of audio and video-recordings. The estimate of the degree of vitality is based on the experience with the local communities. The presents study is part of a project on creating a database and a documentation for an Atlas of the languages of Côte d’Ivoire under the supervision of Stavros, Gibbon, and myself in collaboration with the universities of Bielefeld, Frankfurt and Abidjan.



Affognon A. Victor. 1993. Le krakagbe, l’argot des kraka du marché Dantokpa: étude sociolinguistique. Mémoire de maîtrise; sous la direction de Remy Bole-Richard. Université Nationale du Bénin.
Atchade Chambi Julien. 1991. Le saaram, langue ésotérique de Goro: Recherche d’identité. Mémoire de Maîtrise, sous la direction de Rémy Bole-Richard. Université Nationale du Benin.
Beck, Rose Marie. 2010. „Urban Languages in Africa.“ Africa Spectrum 3: 11-41.
Crystal, David. 2001. “The Cambridge encyclopedia of language.” Cambridge: CUP. 1987.10eGraff, Michel. “On the origin of creoles: A Cartesian critique of neo-Darwinian linguistics.” Linguistic Typology 5.
May, Stephen. 2012. Language and minority rights: Ethnicity, nationalism, and the politics of language. New York: Routledge.
Mary Esther Kropp Dakubu. 2013. Research on Vanishing Languages and Practices in the Northern Guang Area in Ghana: a preliminary report. Ghana Journal of Linguistics 2.1: 79-86

You are all cordially invited.