Annotating Multilingual Sentences in „Hold“ by Michael Donkor: Twi and English

In his novel „Hold“, which was first published in 2018, Micheal Donkor continually weaves Twi words into English sentences, thus constructing a multilingual narrative. When he uses words in Twi, the author highlights them and sets them apart by italicizing them. Though much could be said about the function of this practice, it is a secondary issue in regards to annotating sentences from the novel. Within the context of the seminar „Writing across Languages“, I am mainly interested in the form- italics being a part of it. Moreover, I am interested in how the multilingual sentences can be annotated and what challenges arise in doing so.

Multilingual Sample Sentences in Donkor’s Novel

There are different techniques that Donkor uses in order to establish multilingualism. I tried to choose sentences, words and phrases that show a variety of techniques the author uses. Often, phrases or whole sentences in Twi are used in dialogue.

‚What a polite and best-mannered young lady we have on our grounds this pleasant day. Wa ye adeƐ.

Donkor, Michael: Hold, p. 7

Me da ase,‘ Belinda said softly.

Donkor, Michael: Hold, p. 10

Other times, only one word is used in an English sentence. Here, as in almost all cases of multilingualism in Donkor’s novel, the Twi words are italicized.

Belinda worked the pestle in the asanka, using her weight against the ingredients, grinding the slippery onion and pepper.

Donkor, Michael: Hold, p. 28

In the tro tro on the way home from the zoo, Belinda had done her best to enjoy Mary’s sulking silence.

Donkor, Michael: Hold, p. 25

I have chosen 8 sample sentences in total and pasted them into „Jupyter Notebook“. Though a few letters differed from the English alphabet and had to be inserted seperately, I faced no technical difficulties. A variety of challenges arose, however, regarding the machine annotation of Twi.

Challenges in Annotating Twi in English Sentences

No Italics in Annotations

I have repeatedly mentioned that Donkor uses italics to signal mutlilingualism. There is no way to indicate italics within „Jupyter Notebook“. Thus, it would be impossible to use these annotations to analyze the use of italics in multilingual texts, whether with a diachronic lens or otherwise. Nor can any differing practices across languages be analyzed, seeing that there is no way to indicate italics and therefore search for them later on.

Twi Words with the same form as English words

There are a few instances within the chosen sample sentences where a Twi phrase includes a word that resembles an English word. „Jupyter Notebook“, being based on an annotation model for the English language, identifies the form of these words and classifies them according to the English POS. In the chosen, annotated sentences this issue applies to the words „me“ or „bone“. Since I lack the language skills in Twi to understand the words, I can neither confirm nor deny if the classification generally is correct. It shows, however, that there are challenges in differentiating the Twi words from the English words.

Classifying Twi Words Consistently

In general, there’s a lack of consistency with respect to the classification of Twi words. The word „Aboa“ appears twice in two adjacent sentences. Still, the classifications for the word differ despite the same form. First it is identified as „ADJ“, then as „PROPN“. Due to a lack of input of the Twi language, these parts of the sentences are not labeled correctly.

Aboa!‘ Mary laughed. Aboa was Mother’s insult of choice too;

Donkor, Michael: Hold, p. 52