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Sociolingüística internacional

Plurilingual competence. A concrete example: Cameroon, by Mònica Molina


Thus, in big cities such as Yaounde or Douala, the language of intercommunication par excellence is no longer Bulu or Ewondo, nor even Douala, but French. This is demonstrated by a survey on pupils in Yaounde, of whom 82% stated that they preferred to use French instead of a national language, whereas this percentage fell to just 12% in rural areas.

Thus, in Cameroon, unlike what is happening in other French-speaking countries, the French language is not just the language of a small elite, but rather the language of intercommunication for the majority of its people, to the detriment of their own languages.

2. 3. Popular variants of official languages

It is not precisely the standard variants of French and English that are used more frequently in everyday life, but rather popular variants of these, also affecting the renunciation of national and traditional vehicular languages.

In the case of French, this variant is not only characterised by a large amount of vocabulary and literal translations of idioms from national languages, but also by other, more complex lguage.inguistic phenomena such as the reorganisation of semantic fields or non-standard morphosyntactic constructions. (12)

Examples of words and idioms of the French Spoken in Cameroon

From national languages

Le kongossa (talking without a sound basis)

Le kabangondo (roomy dress worn by women)

Faire le nyangá (move)

On l’a donné le tabassí (magic potion to make one fall in love)

Frère de case (individual with whom one establishes a privileged friendship)

Words with a semantic new creation

Bordelle (prostitute)

Verbs of own creation

Gâter (includes all French verbs containing the sememe 'destruction')

Gréver (standard French, faire la grève)

Cadeauter (st. French, faire cadeau)

Ambiancer (st. French, mettre de l’ambiance)

Préparer (st. French, faire la cuisine)

Escroqueriser (st. French, escroquer)

Own morphosyntactic constructions

En ce moment (st. French, à ce moment)

Accoucher un enfant (st. French, accoucher d’un enfant)

The same occurs in the country’s two English-speaking provinces, where the variant used in everyday life is called pidgin English, due to its origins as a hybrid language (mixture of English and native languages) to perform social and financial exchanges.

Cameroon pidgin however, has undergone a process of creolisation; i.e. it has become the language learned by children in the domestic environment; (13) and has even obtained a certain standard consensus with the translation of the Bible. An example of this popular variant of English is illustrated by the phrase a gou go farm tomorrow, where gou is the future form of the verb to go.

2. 4. Birth of new varieties

The linguistic creativity of the Cameroonians does not merely translate into the ease with which they imprint their own identity onto the official languages, but also into the creation and use of new linguistic variants through contact between different languages and registers.


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