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Cognitive Literary Science

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Review of  Language Contact in a Postcolonial Setting

Reviewer: Marcin Walczynski
Book Title: Language Contact in a Postcolonial Setting
Book Author: Eric A. Anchimbe
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 24.993

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This edited volume of papers on different aspects of Cameroon English (CamE) and Cameroon Pidgin English (CPE), as claimed by the editor, has three main objectives: (1) to explore CamE on different levels (e.g. grammar, phonology, lexicon, as well as cognitive-sociolinguistic dimensions) within the new research frameworks offered by scholars working in the paradigms of New Englishes; (2) to examine certain grammatical aspects of CPE and show how they have been changing over time; (3) to illustrate the two languages through an ample sample of authentic texts.

The book is divided into three parts, each of which strives to achieve one of the above-mentioned objectives.

The three main parts of the volume are preceded by the Introduction (Chapter 1: “Language contact in a postcolonial setting: Research approaches to Cameroon English and Cameroon Pidgin English”, by Eric A. Anchimbe), in which the main aims and research paradigms taken up by the scholars contributing papers to the volume are presented. Here, the editor sketches the topics and research frameworks presented in the next parts of the volume, stressing the wide variety of research approaches to CamE and CPE.

The first part of the book contains seven papers on CamE. The first article (Chapter 2: “The expression of modality in Cameroon English”, by Daniel A. Nkemleke) presents the ways in which modality is expressed in CamE on the basis of a rich corpus collected between 1992 and 1994. From the paper, it is evident that modal verbs (i.e. must, should, can, could, may, might) used by CamE speakers are not so frequent as their equivalents in British English.

The next paper (Chapter 3: “A cognitive sociolinguistic approach to the lexicon of Cameroon English and other world Englishes”, by Hans-Georg Wolf) deals with the lexicon of CamE (or more precisely, with its selected items) examined from the cognitive-sociolinguistic perspective. As an outcome of his investigation, the author offers an interesting sample dictionary, which is divided into two parts. The first part includes the entries composed of the following types of meta- as well as cognitive and socio-linguistic data: standard description (i.e. form, etymology, meaning), text examples and underlying culture-specific conceptualizations (with links to target and source domains). The second part presents the items arranged according to these target and source domains. Such construction of the dictionary certainly contributes to the lexicography of CamE and, additionally, shows how culture-specific words can be described in a dictionary of a variety of English.

Chapter 4 (“Reading the phonology of Cameroon English through the Trilateral Process”, by Augusin Simo Bobda) is about the phonology of New Englishes, with particular attention paid to the phonology of CamE and, what the author calls, the trilateral process. Generally speaking, this process entails phonological changes along three sides: (1) within the Inner Circle variety (e.g. Received Pronunciation – RP); (2) from the Inner Circle English into a New English variety (i.e. CamE); (3) within this New English variety. The author discussed in greater detail the phonology of CamE with reference to this process but this concept can also be applied to other world Englishes and their phonologies.

Phonology is also the topic of Chapter 5 (“One variety, different ethnic tongues. A phonological perspective on Nso’ English”, by Ernesta Kelen Fonyuy). However, in this article, the focus is on the ethnic varieties of English which are used in Cameroon. Particular attention is paid to the phonological features of Nso’ English, which is the ethnic variety of CamE spoken by the Nso’ community. Some of its characteristic features, revealed in the phonological-statistical study presented in the paper, are the phonological realizations of certain vowels and diphthongs which are different not only from the RP realizations but also from the CamE ones. In general, it might be concluded that as a variety of CamE, Nso’ English has its own phonological peculiarities, making it quite distinct from CamE.

In the next chapter (Chapter 6: “The filtration processes in Cameroon English”, by Eric A. Anchimbe), the author discusses filtration in CamE – a process, whereby certain lexical items or syntactic patterns become part of the variety whereas others are not so commonly used; it is conditioned by a variety of factors (e.g. motivation, appropriateness, politics) and the lexical or syntactic structures filtered in this way may be attested to several sources, with language contact being one of the most fruitful of them. The author gives some examples of words which have been filtered into CamE: “achu” (foodstuff name), “manyi/mangi” (twins’ mother), “ekwang” (foodstuff name).

Chapter 7 (“Language choice, identity, and power in the Cameroonian parliament”, by Lilian Lem Atanga) ends the first part of the book by presenting the issue of language choice in the Cameroonian parliament within the framework of Critical Discourse Analysis. The author demonstrates that a number of factors (e.g. wish to belong to a group, wish to exclude someone from the group, wish to mark the original Anglophone or Francophone linguistic identity, etc.) are important when members of parliament decide upon the selection of the language in which they deliver their speeches.

The second part of the volume concerns CPE and is composed of five chapters. In Chapter 8 (“Tense and aspect in Cameroon Pidgin English”, by Anne Schröder), CPE tense and aspect are examined. The data presented by the author reveals that CPE uses four markers of tense and aspect: go (future), bin (past), di (imperfective), don/neba (perfect). This system can also be found in several other English-based pidgins.

Chapter 9 (“Reduplication in Cameroon Pidgin English”, by Bonaventure M. Sala) presents formal and functional perspectives on reduplication in CPE. The author draws an interesting conclusion, stating that reduplication (e.g. gwà-gwá (“duck”), kind-kind (to mark plurality), some fain-fain woman (“a very beautiful woman”)) is quite a productive word-formation process used to mark a number of aspects such as intensification, plurality, restriction, etc.

The topic of Chapter 10 (“Pronouns in Cameroon Pidgin English”, by Gratien G. Atindogbé and Evelyn Fogwe Chibaka) is the system of CPE pronouns. Through their profound analysis, the authors convincingly prove that CPE (or, as they view this language, Cameroon Pidgin Creole) has quite a rich system of pronouns. This richness is visible in the fact that there are many categories of pronouns such as personal subjective pronouns, personal objective pronouns, weak possessive pronouns, strong possessive pronouns, reflexive pronouns, simple emphatic pronouns, composed emphatic pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, interrogative pronouns, relative pronouns, indefinite pronouns, and reciprocal pronouns. Such a division of pronouns and their pragmatically conditioned use are observed in many English-based pidgins, for example, in Nigerian Pidgin.

Chapter 11 (“Gud Nyus fo Pidgin?: Bible translation as language elaboration in Cameroon Pidgin English”, by Susanne Mühleisen and Eric A. Anchimbe) discusses the translation of the Bible into CPE and its importance in establishing certain norms regarding spelling, the lexicon and word-formation, as well as grammar. However, the authors state that the Bible translation under discussion has produced writing norms which are examined by scholars and not necessarily adhered to by CPE writers, especially those producing literary texts. On the basis of “The Lord’s Prayer”, the authors also provide a small comparison of the orthographies used to write CPE words. For, example, the English word “this day” has 3 different spelling forms: “this day”, “today”, “tudei”, with the last written according to the conventions adopted for the 2000 CPE translation of the Bible titled ‘Gud Nyus fo ol Pipul: Nyu Testament fo Pidgin’. Similarly, the word “come” is spelled in different ways: “come”, “came” and “kam” (the last being the spelling form adopted for the Bible translation).

The final chapter of the second part, Chapter 12 (“German colonial influences on, and representations of, Cameroon Pidgin English”, by Brigitte Weber), presents how the German language has exerted some influence on different levels of CPE (phonology, e.g., pronunciation of certain sounds), syntax (e.g. the syntactic structure with the word man, word order in some sentences with prepositions, etc.), vocabulary (e.g. certain lexical items might have been derived from German like zucker and marsch)). Moreover, the author analyzes the negative attitude towards CPE of the German administration, who deemed this language as a “horrible jargon” (p. 287). On the other hand, they realized the usefulness of this language and the necessity of its basic command. Such thinking resulted in the preparation of some course books like Kurzes Handbuch für Neger = Englisch an der Westküse Afrikas unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von Kmerun (1908, Gunther von Hagen). Overall, this chapter show how extralinguistic factors can influence the shape of a language.

The third part is a valuable collection of original written and oral text samples of both CamE and CPE. Snippets of the CPE texts are as follows:

“Meik wuna no di joj oda pipul, an God e no go joj wuna, foseika sei, hau weh wuna joj som man, na so God go joj wuna, an de loh weh wuna di yus-am e go bi de loh weh God go yus-am fo wuna”. (p. 308)

“You know we don educate patients for way weh them suppose for di help them, we no get for hala them”. (p. 311)


The volume of papers on CamE and CPE is an extremely valuable contribution to Creolistics for several reasons. First of all, all of the chapters form a uniform whole, presenting the complex linguistic situation of Cameroon, where two languages are of paramount importance: CamE and CPE. Secondly, it is noteworthy that the authors of the papers included in the volume do not limit themselves to only one research perspective, but rather focus on the multifacetedness of modern approaches to the studied languages. This certainly enriches the study of both CamE and CPE. Thanks to such a rich variety of research frameworks presented in the volume’s chapters, the reader gets a very informative account of what these two languages really are, what characteristic features they have and (especially for CamE) in what way they are different from standard British English.

An unquestionable asset of the volume is that all of its objectives that the editors write about in the Introduction are achieved. With regard to the first objective, CamE is indeed analyzed on different levels and the observations on, for example, CamE modality, lexicon or phonology are novel and certainly contribute to a better understanding of the processes that take place in these aspects of CamE. Certainly, another strength is the analysis of language choice, identity and power, as observed in the example of the Cameroonian parliament. Such studies shed new light on the real attitude of CamE speakers toward the languages they use. To some extent, this study may also be indicative of how the identities of members of parliament are constructed via language and how the choice of language governs social inclusion/exclusion processes.

As for the second aim, CPE grammatical patterns are also well examined by the authors in the second part of the volume. Thanks to the in-depth analyses, the reader is informed of how tense and aspect, reduplication, or pronominal systems work in CPE. The focus on these features seems to be justified since many pidgins and creoles exhibit various patterns of aspect, tense and modality markers, various contextual-dependent needs for using reduplication, and different pronouns in their pronoun systems. These are often quite salient features of pidgin and creole languages. In many cases, these features are not directly related to the lexifier/superstrate languages the pidgins and creoles are based on and are rather attributed to other sources (including the substrate languages). The grammatical analysis presented in this part of the volume is certainly a valuable contribution which may be exploited in further cross-linguistic studies of such features in pidgins and creoles. Equally valuable are the conclusions drawn at the end of the last two papers in the section dealing with Bible translation and the influence of German on CPE. In several cases, the translation of the Bible has had a significant impact on pidgin/creole standardization (including language elaboration, e.g., in Tok Pisin), and in the case of CPE, it seems that this did not work this way because, as the authors conclude, the spelling patterns adopted for this translation of the Bible have not been followed yet by CPE users; they have merely been the topic of scholarly analysis. The last paper shows that Germans and their language did exert a strong influence on the lexicon of CPE by presenting the wide social context in which such influence took place.

Referring to the third objective, the collection of texts in CamE and CPE is an excellent illustration of what these languages really are. They allow the reader to get a glimpse into the (especially lexical and syntactic) peculiarities of CamE and CPE. Another great asset of the reviewed volume is the fact that the authors do not merely present their research perspectives on the basis of some artificially created language samples. On the contrary, almost all papers draw extensively on numerous data samples from corpora. As such, the reader observes analytical frameworks applied to real linguistic data compiled from different sources.

With regard to the target audience of the book, it should be stated that this volume is intended for students and scholars interested in the formation of new Englishes as well as pidgins and creoles. It will enrich the targeted readership’s understanding of a whole gamut of linguistic and sociolinguistic processes taking place in languages themselves and in the communities using those languages. Equally noteworthy are the theoretical foundations upon which all the analysis presented in the volume are based, which, to a certain extent, may form a foundation for other research initiatives.

Having said the above, the reviewer can raise two minute objections. First of all, given the richness of aspects of CamE and CPE discussed in the book, it was surprising to see that very little attention was paid to the pragmatics of both languages. Devoting separate chapters to the pragmatic aspects of both languages would certainly raise the already high value of the book and enrich the research perspectives applied in it. This additional approach could have shed new light on the pragmatic norms of use of the languages under analysis. Secondly, there seems to be an editorial problem: the title of Chapter 4 included in the table of contents is not exactly the same as the title of the chapter in the body of the volume. This, however, does not in any way reflect the quality of the chapter itself.

In sum, this volume sheds new light on different aspects of both CamE and CPE and provides the reader with original language samples. Moreover, the studies presented by the authors can be further used in the comparative analyses of, for example, aspect-tense-modality markers or reduplication found in pidgins and creoles, and therefore, this work opens new possibilities for further research on CamE, CPE, and other related pidgins and creoles and world Englishes, which is what each new contribution to any field of science should do.
MARCIN WALCZYŃSKI, Ph.D. in linguistics, is an assistant professor in the Department of Translation Studies of the Institute of English Studies at Wrocław University, a lecturer in the Section of Business English of the Institute of Modern Languages of the University of Applied Sciences in Nysa. His research interests include sociolinguistics, anthropological linguistics, contact linguistics and creolistics, lingua franca studies, special purpose language studies (business, law, computer technology, medicine and media), translation and interpreting, theory of communication, intercultural communication, journalism and media discourse(s). He has taught numerous courses on various aspects of the English language, translation and interpreting, linguistics and communication sciences, history and culture of English-speaking countries and journalism and the media. He is also a regular translator translating business, legal, medical, technical, artistic and scientific texts.

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