Aspects of Cameroon English usage : a lexical appraisal
Université de Yaoundé 1
This study examines the innovative and creative development of lexis in Cameroon English. English in Cameroon evolves in a foreign geographical setting where its users are people of different cultures who speak several other languages.
The broad corpus of the study consists of written texts such as official and literary documents, and of spoken texts such as media programmes, conversations and speeches. The narrow corpus, on the other hand, is made up of a collection of new and adapted words which are widespread in the variety. As for the informants, they are mature Cameroonians who are holders of the GCE O’ Level and higher diplomas; they can fully operate in the English language and many of them actually make use of this language in their profession. The analysis reveals several interesting facts about Cameroon English. First of all, there exist a great number of adapted lexical terms in the English used in Cameroon, which is a common feature observed elsewhere in the world in most places where several languages come into contact. Secondly, the vast majority of new and adapted words in Cameroon English come from two widespread languages, namely French, the co-official language of the country, and Pidgin English, a popular non-ethnic lingua franca. Thirdly, while French donates words referring to government institutions and procedural processes, Pidgin English contributes loans for culture-specific domains such as traditional practices and foodstuffs. Fourthly, of the various word formative processes observed in language, the process of borrowing is by far the most productive in Cameroon English. Lastly, because Cameroonians already speak two or more languages before they start schooling and because, while in school, they learn to speak English exclusively from written materials - with their teachers serving as models - the sound system of English in the country is greatly modified: RP phonemes are greatly simplified, and foreign sounds are constantly used; word-stress is often shifted to different syllables, and tonal features are occasionally attached to certain words.
While some of these adapted terms do have English equivalents, many of them refer to concepts and objects which are new to the English community. There is therefore a need for educationists and language teachers in particular, to adjust their syllabus so as to accommodate those adapted terms whose English equivalents are unknown to Cameroonian users or are hardly used by them. There is also a need for lexicographers to bring together those terms which refer to new entities unknown to the English community; these will constitute Cameroon’s contribution to the development of English as a world language.
ISBN 9783895868771. LINCOM Studies in English Linguistics 10. 318pp. 2006.