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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Vitality of Cameroonian Laguages in Contact with French Add Dissertation
Author: Bitjaa Zachée Denis Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Yaounde I, Doctorat d'Etat
Completed in: 2005
Linguistic Subfield(s): Sociolinguistics;
Director(s): Beban Chumbow
Grant McConnell

Abstract: This work entitled The Vitality of Cameroonian Languages in Contact with French presents the results of a macrosociolinguistic analysis of the vitality of less dominant Cameroonian languages when compared to French, the dominant language.

The study is motivated by the fact that the use of local languages is progressively abandoned in urban and rural areas to the advantage of French, which has become the language of integration in the urban centres and the main vehicular language in the Francophone provinces of Cameroon. From the start, the study seeks to examine whether all Cameroonian languages are affected by this decrease in usage, or if some are more affected than others, and what are the factors that favour the phenomenon in one group or the other. The objective of the study is to put all those factors that ensure the vitality of a language on one side and those that reduce it on the other, so as to build a reliable instrument for the measurement of language vitality.

In order to set this instrument up and carry out the measurement of the vitality of Cameroonian languages, the study embodies language practices, language attitudes and the linguistic representations of Cameroonians in rural and urban areas. It also examines the institutional management of languages through language policy and language planning in Cameroon.

The study of the dynamism of Cameroonian languages that are in contact with French has enabled us to understand that Cameroonian languages have disappeared more from daily usage in urban than in rural areas. All local languages are affected by this phenomenon though some are more so than others.

The non-transmission of local languages from one generation to the next, which is one of the aspects of this language attrition, is due, on the one hand, to sociocultural factors like the acceptance of interethnic marriages, the location of the main language area inside or outside an urban centre, the cosmopolitan nature of the urban centre, etc.. On the other hand, it is caused by the attitude and representations of urban dwellers who consider French as the prestige language that provides jobs, material advantages, social advances and other benefits. Hence, they consciously abandon their native languages in favour of French, that they transmit to their children.

In semi-rural and rural areas, though the language insecurity generated by French is felt, local languages are still transmitted normally, from one generation to the next. French is perceived as an official language which is suitable for formal situations, whereas the local language is used in other domains in a true diglossic setting.

The vitality of a language is the result of the conjunction of positive and negative parameters. The presence or absence of these factors within a language community help to situate the language at one point along the language vitality scale proposed in this study.

From a purely epistemological point of view, the pertinent criteria retained in the taxonomy of Cameroonian languages differ slightly from those retained in previous macrosociolinguistic studies on the vitality of languages. This difference in parameters reveals that every linguistic situation is specific and needs to be treated by taking into consideration this specificity.