Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Cultural and Linguistic Hybridizations in Cameroon: English Loanwords in

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Cultural and Linguistic Hybridizations in Cameroon: English Loanwords in

Article excerpt


This paper examines the various linguistic processes that English loanwords in ngembà have undergone due to the long-term contact between this African language and English as the language of European importation. A close scrutiny of the borrowed lexical items shows that they fall under many domains of life such as administration and religion, commerce and technology, culture and artefacts, to name these few and have undergone many modifications at the levels of phonology (clusters simplification, shwa deletion, voicing, devoicing, tone insertion, etc.), morphosyntax (compounding, syllable insertion, derivation, reduplication, etc.) and semantics (broadening, narrowing, loan translations, etc.). The present study analyses the linguistic processes that underlie English loanwords in ngembà, a Bantu language spoken in the West Region of Cameroon. The corpus gathered for the study comprises 249 loanwords collected through interviews and participant observation of ngembà speakers aged between 16 and 83, living in rural and urban areas. The descriptive model is the framework used for the data analysis in this study.

Keywords: Ngembà, Cultural hybridization, Linguistics hybridization, English loanwords, Cameroon

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1. Introduction

Factors such as trade, colonisation and religion have contributed significantly to the contact between ngembà and English. One of the linguistic implications of this contact is the borrowing of a multitude of lexical items from English, a language of European importation. Once integrated into the ngembà lexicon, the borrowed items undergo many modifications at the level of phonology, morphosyntax and semantics. The present study sets out to describe the linguistic processes through which English words have become ngembà words. The presentation of background of information about the ngembà language (section 2) is followed by the classification of the loanwords into various domains (section 3). An analysis of the linguistic processes underlying English loanwords in ngembà (sections 4 & 5) closes up the study.

2. Background of Information about the ngem bà language

ngembà is a language spoken in four of the seven Divisions of the West Region of Cameroon in West Africa. Its speakers are the natives of Bansoa, Bamoungoun, Bamendjou Bameka and Bafounda. ngembà belongs to the Niger-Kordofanian phylum under the Niger-Congo Subphylum. It is a language of the Benue-Congo family within the Bantoïd subfamily. Within the Grassfield sub-group of the Bantu group, ngembà is classified under the Bamileke sub-branch of the East-Grassfield branch (Boum Ndongo-Semengue and Sadembouo, 1999 : 70). Recent studies extensively describe the structure of this language (Fossi 1997, 2000, 2006; Soh Jean Philip 2005, 2009; Ouafo 2007; Kuitche Fonkou et al. 1991).

3. Classification of the loanwords into Domains

English loanwords in ngembà pertains to many domains of life namely religion, commerce and technology, culture, fauna and flora. Words are also borrowed from English to describe the days of the week and places in ngembà. The tables below present the borrowed lexical items as used today by ngembà speakers and the donor words in English. Borrowed items are presented in the first column with their phonetic transcription following the IPA style sheet. It is worth stating that the list of the loanwords in the charts below is not exhaustive rather it is a sample of loanwords from English that exist in ngembà and their different domains of usage.

3.1 Administration and religion

3.2 Commerce and technology

3.3 Culture and artefact

3.4 Fauna and flora

3.5 Days of the week and names of places

The sample loanwords above show that the domains in which ngembà people have borrowed most is that of technology and commerce. The common assumption among ngembà people is that English loanwords that describe technical material and commercial items result from the fact that many of these materials and items did not exist in the ngembà culture before colonization. …

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