Reichard 1 Melissa Reichard Structure of the English Language Dr.

Schlitz 30 March 2012 Cameroonian Languages This summer, beginning on May 12, 2012, I will be embarking on one of the greatest adventures of my life thus far. For five weeks, I will be studying in Cameroon, Africa. When I started thinking of the culture I’ll be encountering, I was thinking of the things that make up a culture. I imagined their religious beliefs, food, dress, education, music, family structures, and their language. I was told that the dominant languages were French and English. I had to stop and think, ―What? French and English…how can that be possible? This is Africa. Not Europe…‖ I was expecting the language to be Zulu or Swahili; some kind of African language that is completely Non-Western; however, to my surprise, that wasn’t the case. The Cameroon country speaks up to 280 diverse languages. Many of its natives speak at least five different languages depending on their geographic region, the language of their ancestors, and the language used by the aristocracy. My research paper will explore the language evolution and variations across geographic regions and social systems of Cameroon, the language choice of the people, and comparing their languages to the language(s) of the United States. History plays a large role in language because in large, historical battles for regional supremacy, the country that is victorious is most likely the country that will dictate the government structure, the culture, and of course, the language. Located in West Africa, Cameroon was established in the 12th century A.D. Hunter-gatherers such as, the Baka Pygmies and the Bantus, meaning ―people,‖ were among the first tribes to settle along the southern border

Reichard 2 of Cameroon. The indigenous language of these two tribes is known as the Benue-Congo language which constitutes over 140 differentiated languages. Some of the most common are Yoruba, Igbo, Shona, Zulu, and Swahili. According to the U.S. Department of State, the Fulani, a pastoral Islamic people of the western Sahel, dominated most of what is now northern Cameroon, by conquering or relocating its largely non-Muslim inhabitants during the late 1700s and early 1800s. When this event took place, it created another language of West Africa known as, Fula. It wasn’t until after the late 1870s that Europeans began to move into Cameroon due to the enormous window for coastal trade and the acquisition of slaves. As trade began to grow along the coastal regions of the country, German trading posts were established. In 1868, the Woermann Company of Hamburg built a warehouse, thus bringing about the German colonization. When Cameroon became German territory, its name was known as ―Kamerun,‖ with the capital, ―Duala‖ (now known as Douala), then Buea, and finally, Jaunde (now known as Yaoundé). However, after World War I, the German Empire in Africa finally fell into the hands of both Britain and France. On June 28, 1919, the League of Nations distributed split land between the French and the British. Gaining a greater capacity of land, the French controlled the outlying regions of Cameroon and Yaoundé. The British territory included a strip bordering Nigeria from the sea to Lake Chad. However, the colonization didn’t end there. Driven by their hunger for power, the French wanted to overcome many of the tribes in French Cameroon. As a result, the indigenous tribes rebelled, creating a devastating war that killed over ten thousand people. In 1960, the rebellions ended and the independence for French Cameroon was won, becoming the Republic of Cameroon. The remaining indigenous tribes were forced to the outskirts of their country,

Reichard 3 choosing to remain under the band of their true African culture. Both France and Britain maintained considerable autonomy throughout the years. So what does this have to do with the language? Well, as it so seems, the native tongues of Cameroon were driven out when these invaders moved into their country and attempted to westernize them, along with their language. Both France and Britain took control of Cameroonian land that was once inhabited by the Baka Pygmies, the Fulanis, the Bantus, and many others. Their culture was dominated by European culture and their native language was driven out. Today, Cameroon’s official languages are French and English which are classified in Lingua Francas, along with Camfraglais and Cameroonian Pidgin English. In addition, there are also the National languages which include 55 Afro-Asiatic languages, two Nilo-Saharan languages, and 173 Niger–Congo languages (Lewis Ethnologue: Languages of the World). Attached to the back of my research paper is a detailed list of the languages, their linguistic branch, and location of the tribes throughout Cameroon (Lewis 2009). Below, is a map describing some of the linguistic locations throughout Cameroon. As you can see, majority of Cameroon is overcome with the Niger-Congo language, with some scatterings of Afro-Asiatic and Nilo-Saharan languages in the northern tip of Cameroon.

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Reichard 5 There are approximately 280 languages spoken all across Cameroon. According to journalist, Bruce Connell, West Africa is considered one of the most ―linguistically heterogeneous regions‖ in the world. I cannot agree with this statement more. When I think about my own American culture, I realize that I only know one language: English. Sure, I took four years of Spanish in high school, but I never put it to practice. I never delved into my knowledge and understanding of the Spanish language because I didn’t need it; most of my country and surrounding areas speak English. I remember when I had Public Speaking in my second semester of college and my professor, Dr. Jowi, told our class that she was from Kenya, Africa. I was in awe. She dedicated the first class to answering our questions about her culture and country. I had asked her, ―How many languages do you speak?‖ Her reply was, ―I speak seventeen languages.‖ I said, ―Whoa! Seventeen!?‖ She said, ―When I go to a different town, they will be speaking in another language. I cannot talk to them if I do not know their language.‖ That meant, if I were to travel from my hometown, Mountain Top, to downtown Wilkes-Barre, they would have been speaking a different language. That’s incredible! Tribes in Cameroon are forced to dive head first into another language because they have to communicate somehow. Connell states, ―The local market is an example of one situation, where traders and customers may have different languages but overlapping repertoires, and will have to choose which language from among several will be the language used in a transaction (131). After he conducted several different studies on marketplaces around Africa, Connell was able to pick out the dominant languages that the natives settled upon. Connell studied the Somié marketplace outside of the Mambila region, located on the Tikar Plain. He established that the Somié marketplace is the home to many different languages including, Ba Mambila, Fulfulde, French, Mbar, Kwanja, and Yamba. Connell also stated that the use of Pidgin English is on the rise in

Reichard 6 certain areas due to the increase in traders from the Anglophone (predominantly English speaking group of people) region. Similar to our system of dialects and code-switching, the Cameroonians are accustomed to code-switching their language according to situation and environment. They are forced between two paths: their native tongue, or French and/or English. In their social systems, such as schools, government organizations, media, and businesses, the language is usually French or English; however, when surrounded by friends and family in their home village, the Cameroonians are relaxed in speaking their home language. For example, in a CBN online YouTube video, I found that many tribes in Cameroonian are uncomfortable speaking the French and English language because they don’t understand it as well as they understand their home language. In this video, CBN interviews natives from the village Yambeta, about the language they are forced to use in their society, specifically, when reading the Bible. 40% of Cameroonians dwell in the Christian faith; however, there are no Bibles that are translated into Yambeta. Instead, they are translated into English and/or French. The Yambas in this short piece are standing up to the ―formal‖ languages and taking control themselves by translating the Bible into Yambeta. According to Yamba Pastor Georges Mossasso, having the Word of God translated into his mother tongue is a great blessing. He states, ―When I went to Biblical school, I started the Word of God in French and I thought I had mastered it. The fact now that I can speak, read, write, and even preach in my own language—that makes me proud.‖ It’s clear that the French and English languages have controlled and influenced the Cameroonian native languages, similarly to how Standard American English (SAE) has influenced our use of dialects. For example, our businesses and corporations expect us to use SAE in job interviews, media interviews, colleges, and professional papers. The way we speak around our friends and

Reichard 7 family is not the way our American aristocratic society would expect us to speak, else, we’d be seen as unintelligent and/or not qualified to participate in the class or job. Coinciding with the languages used according to situation is the usage of Cameroonian Pidgin English (CamP). Branched from the Lingua Franca, CamP was developed in the 18th century along the coastal regions to establish common ground among traders and natives (Kouega 540). According to journalist, Samuel Atechi, CamP is ―a language which arose as a result of the desperate need for a link language between people who spoke mutually unintelligible languages that has now established itself as a major force to reckon with in the linguistic landscape of the country.‖ In addition, Dr. Agbaw, English professor of Bloomsburg University, and native of Cameroon, states that ―Pidgin English is growing rapidly in Cameroon. In fact, the students prefer to use Pidgin English because everyone can use it. You see, it’s a common ground for tribal languages. Everyone can use it and everyone can understand it.‖ He also went on to say that while studying in Cameroon, there will definitely be signs of Pidgin English in the University of Beau because that is what the students choose to speak. CamP is not used among the offices, schools, businesses, etc. In fact, in searching through photos for the Slam Presentation, I stumbled upon a photo outside the University of Beau that said, ―Pidgin is taking a heavy toll on language. Please speak English.‖ CamP is a stigmatized language because it is resulting in the failed usage of Cameroonian Standard English. CamP in comparison to Cameroonian English (CamE), is seen as ―bad English, poor English, bush English, join join English‖ (Atechi). However, because of the rapid growth among the youth of Cameroon, Dr. Agbaw believes that Universities across the country will begin teaching CamP to students. In a YouTube clip by Masterhide, the young girl gives an interesting account and lesson on speaking Pidgin English. Although she is from Hawii, it’s the same concept and

Reichard 8 basis as CamP. Speakers start off in their native tongue, but then switch a word or two into English. Dr. Agbaw gives a great example of the phrase, ―I want to eat some food.‖ In CamP, it would translate into, ―I wan chom something.‖ The English terms are of course, ―want‖ however, it’s said ―wan‖ and ―something,‖ whereas, the native term is ―chom.‖ Journalist, Jean-Paul Kouega, discusses the speech patterns used within the media in his article, "Some Major Speech Traits Of Cameroon Media News In English." Kouega states ―the spoken news, a media programme that is produced by highly educated professional journalists that tend to be looked up to by the general public, has a greater impact on the population than other varieties of Educated Cameroon English‖ (541). In this statement, Kouega illustrates that the media has a large effect on the population and the linguistic choice being used. He goes on to talk about the preferred use of CamE in the media because of its sophisticated sound, as opposed to the previously talked about CamP. In the rest of his article, Kouega presents rich information about the speech sounds being made by those in the media by contrasting other dialectal variations and/or languages such as French and English. For example, below is a chart, pulled from Kouega’s article, that illustrates the variations of speech utterances in certain words containing voiceless consonants that are often voiced, such as /s/, which then becomes /z/. In addition, the chart also illustrates the voiced constants such as, /v, z, ᵹ/, which then become, /f, s, ᶋ/. These speech utterances are important to note in the CamE because it helps natives to differentiate the language used by the different social classes and those who are accustomed to speaking CamP verses those who speak CamE.

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In addition to speaking, there is also the factor of reading and writing. Throughout the education system, English is the official language in which students and teachers alike speak, read, and write in. However, there is a new emergence of literacy in the ―mother tongues‖ of the natives which has caused some discrepancy. Journalist Barbara Trudell, conducted a study on the uses of written text in Bafut, Kom, and Nso’ language communities in Northern Cameroon. The impact and effects the use of mother tongues had on the people were miraculous. Trudell’s study proved that literacy in the natives’ home language improved their reading, writing, and communications skills by a long shot. Similarly to Yamba Pastor Georges Mossasso’s claim about the Bible being translated into the language of Yambeta, the fact that these people have the opportunity to learn in their home language has not only boost their skills in communication, reading, and writing, but also their pride and comfort. When thinking on how many languages spoken in the United States, as opposed to how many languages are spoken in Cameroon, the thought is powerful and overwhelming. In the

Reichard 10 United States, our official language is one: English. Although we have many other ethnic groups that have migrated into our country, they are still forced to conform to our American culture and our language if they want to communicate with us. True, this does not limit their ability and freedom to speak in their native tongue at home. In fact, according to the United States Census Bureau, nearly 1-in-5 United States residents speak a foreign language at home (Longley). However, Cameroon is the home of approximately 280 languages. Although the official languages are English and French, it is clear that Pidgin English is on the rise as well as the natives’ mother tongues arises in small villages and their schools. I am aware of the great capacity of this subject I’ve decided to take on. In fact, Dr. Agbaw cracked-up at me when he heard I was conducting a research paper on the languages of Cameroon. He said, ―Who picked this? It’s huge! Very heavy topic…yes.‖ My research is sure to continue while I study abroad and most likely when I return. I can say that this research project has not only prepared me for what languages to expect while studying in Beau, but it has put things in perspective for me as far as my own culture goes. I cannot believe how our country has one language. In schools, we have to take two years of a foreign language, but there is no set rule that we have to continue learning and practicing that language because we don’t need it in our country. It fascinates me to learn about Cameroon’s languages and the capacity of their linguistic understanding of diverse tongues. I hope to continue learning about this and perhaps, even focus on one particular language in Cameroon, which, I have a feeling will be Pidgin English. But, who knows what the next chapter will be. Language is always flowing and always changing according to the people, their choice, and their culture and Cameroon is a prime example of this statement.

Reichard 11 Literature Review—Bibliography Atechi, Samuel. "Is Cameroon Pidgin Flourishing Or Dying?." English Today 27.3 (2011): 3034. Academic Search Complete. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. CBNOnline. Native Translators Labor in Love for Cameroon - 9 Mar. 2012. Web. 17 Apr. 2012. Connell, Bruce. "Language Diversity And Language Choice: A View From A Cameroon Market." Anthropological Linguistics 51.2 (2009): 130-150. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Apr. 2012. ―History of Cameroon.‖ History World. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. Kouega, Jean-Paul. "Some Major Speech Traits Of Cameroon Media News In English." English Studies 80.6 (1999): 540. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Apr. 2012. Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Web. Longley, Robert. ―Nearly 1-in-5 Americans Speak Foreign Language at Home: Most also speak English 'very well,' says Census Bureau.‖ 2010. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. Masterhide. How to Speak Pidgin. 12 Jul. 2010. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. Trudell, Barbara. "Language Development And Social Uses Of Literacy: A Study Of Literacy Practices In Cameroonian Minority Language Communities." International Journal Of Bilingual Education & Bilingualism 9.5 (2006): 625-642. Academic Search Complete. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. U.S. Department of State. ―Background Note: Cameroon.‖ January 1, 2012. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.

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