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

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

Cultural innovations in Cameroon's linguistic Tower of Babel

Stephen A. Mforteh (The University of Yaounde I, Cameroon)



This paper examines the rich linguistic culture that Cameroon has. It has been shown (Koenig et al. 1983, Cretolda 1995) that Cameroon has over 240 Home Languages (HLs) or national languages. This does not include the several dialects that these national languages have. These existed before and after the two official languages, French and English, which now seem to be the main distinguishing markers for Cameroonians. Because of the unequal distribution in the population, French was the language of power and leadership. The use of any of the HLs was restricted to purely ethnic or informal meetings where official business could be handled in these. The functions and purposes of these HLs were quite specific. Today, these HLs carry with them social markers of power, secrecy, pride and solidarity.

Cameroonians are today Anglophones or Francophones, owing to their colonial heritage of the English and French respectively. This linguistic hegemony shaped earlier habits and influenced the indigenous cultures to the extent that people felt ashamed of using or teaching HLs to their offspring. After preliminary discussions on this trend, the paper will examine a current trend among Cameroonians who have fallen back to their Home Languages, spending huge amounts of money to sponsor the teaching of these and literature produced in them. The second aspect examines the sudden positive change in attitude of Francophones in learning English and adopting aspects of English (Anglophone) culture.

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

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-10-10