Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Postcolonial innovations and transformations: Putting language in the forefront

Linguabridities: Redefining linguistic Identities among Cameroonian children in urban areas

Eric A. Anchimbe (Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich)



The term linguabridities, formed from linguistics (language) and hybridity, is used here to refer to those who fluctuate in their identity attachment each time they switch from one language to the other. Fluctuation in this case means either taking completely on the identity of the in-group of the language switched to, or adopting a new identity that sets one between the identity one is switching to and the other one is switching from. It entails much more complex procedures than just bilinguals' and multilinguals' ability to move forth and back several languages. First of all, it deals with identity concealment, identity creation and the adoption of extra-linguistic, cultural, ethnic elements shared within the in-group one is switching to.

This paper seeks to give another reading to the bilingual and multilingual scene of Cameroon that has often been described as constituting people from defined and fixed identity backgrounds. The redefinition is based on a questionnaire administered to children and their parents in Yaounde in 2003 that sought to establish at what point the larger linguistic identity icons, anglophones and francophones, are valid. It was tested on children who were born either of totally francophone parents or of mixed (francophone and anglophone) parents, but who were enrolled in English-medium schools. These children, as the results show are neither anglophones nor francophones. They are something else. They call themselves bilinguals pronounced [bilingwals]. From an iconic persperctive, they are between the French identity, francophonism and the English identity, anglophonism. Each of these identities is represented in the their pronunciation of the word [bi lingwal]. The first syllable is pronounced in French and the second in English, even though both words have different forms in the two languages: French - bilingue [bileng] and English - bilingual [bailingwl]. They are therefore the fruit of both, and this is most evident in their linguistic behaviour, hence the term linguabridities.

It indicates that if two or more generations of Cameroonians grow up in this manner, then the strong linguistic identity icons represented by the official languages, English and French, would gradually merge. Furthermore, the goal of the bilingualism scheme adopted at independence would have been achieved not through the efforts of the government but by the people's desire to create an identity of better social esteem for their children.

Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-09-27