From: Feussi Valentin <valfeussiyahoo.fr>
Subject: A Construction of French in Douala, Cameroon
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Institution: Université de Tours
Program: Language and Humanities
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2006
Author: Feussi Valentin
Dissertation Title: A Construction of French in Douala, Cameroon
Subject Language(s): French (fra)
Robillard Didier de
The goal of this doctoral thesis is to understand that language practices
place speakers in relation of alterity, through phenomena which are social
and particularly dynamic. They are therefore understood as resources for
managing relationships and interaction rituals.
From an epistemological standpoint, traditional techniques in Social
Sciences and Humanities have been used with some adaptations during the
fieldwork, for soliciting observable data. Techniques included observant
participation, comprehensive interviews, non-solicited corpus, and most
importantly, a work on the experience of the participants in the research
(researcher and other observers). This opening allowed understanding that
ethnosociolinguistic and interpretivist approaches were suitable as
constructivist procedure steps, rather than clinging to a predefined
approach. The work on our experience of the research field has led us to
take into consideration a reflexive dimension of the research.
Basing on the fact that differences are mutually accepted as a way of life,
this paper revisits concepts such as norm and linguistic community,
considered as contextual. In this setting, the French language becomes a
collection of representational practices (francanglais, good French,
'personalized French', bad French, children or learner's French). The
recognized and appropriate forms seen as French or any other language are
only relevant in relation to the context. Different participants sometimes
must even agree to disagree. However, because French is the official
language, social efforts for its appropriation make that language a
symbolic capital, which consequently favours its (re)venacularization. One
of the practises known as French, notably the français du quartier,
presents itself in this context as characterizing at the same time social
opening and social frontiers of one to other, in the Doualian society. The
language used can therefore be seen, in this sense, as a source of power,
which facilitates access to resources related to power. Speaking French in
Douala is consequently the stake of claim of the symbolic power, and its
means imposing or negotiating one's own French, since French as a code does
not exist. It is simply a language in construction.
The essential point that should be kept in mind from this study is that
language remains a social construction and the approaches necessary for
accessing it cannot set aside contextualization and its consequences.
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