Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Idiomatic Formation in Cameroon English Creative Writing

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Idiomatic Formation in Cameroon English Creative Writing

Article excerpt


This paper examines the various processes via which novel idiomatic expressions are created in Cameroon English creative writing. The expressions, drawn from fifteen literary works of seven Cameroonian novelists, are classified into three major categories: expressions obtained via the translation of home language and Popular French expressions; locally coined expressions and the expressions obtained via the modification of Standard British English (henceforth SBrE) expressions. The last category includes three subcategories, namely the expressions obtained via the substitution of lexes in SBrE expressions; those obtained via the deletion or addition of lexes in SBrE expressions; and the expressions obtained either both via the substitution and addition or through the substitution, addition and deletion of some lexes in SBrE expressions. It is argued in the paper that a good understanding of these novel expressions is conditioned by the readers' familiarity to some linguistic and extralinguistic factors found in the Cameroonian sociocultural environment.

Keywords: Idiomatic expressions, Cameroon English literature, Translation, Home languages, Modification, Standard British English

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1. Introduction

Lexico-semantic innovations in New Englishes (Nigerian and Cameroon Englishes, for example) have received a considerable attention in the works of many researchers. For instance, Bamiro (1994) suggests that lexico-semantic innovations in Nigerian English fall under ten linguistic categories, namely loanshift ("expo", clipped form of "exposition"); semantic underdifferentiation ("small" for instance is used instead of "little" as in "Laila went on like a small girl" ); lexico-semantic duplication and redundancy ("a stick of cigarette" is used instead of "cigarette"); ellipsis ("environmental" is used for "environmental sanitation day); conversion, an innovation whereby objects/instruments become processes (e.g., "paste" becomes "to paste"); clipping ("permanent secretary" becomes perm sec); acronyms ("c.v". is used for "curriculum vitae"), translation equivalents ("washed his teeth" is the loan translation of the Igbo expression "osara onuya"); analogical creation ("gatemen" is used for "gatekeepers"); and coinages ("sure bankers", a neologism which refers to the questions that will certainly feature in future examinations) (Bamiro, 1994: 49-57). In Simo Bobda (1994), lexical innovations in Cameroon English involve processes such as borrowing ("bordereau" used for "mail enclosure slip"); semantic extension ("balance" is used for "change"); semantic shift ("dateline" is used for "deadline"); collocational extension ("eat" collocates with money); derivation ("indisciplined" is derived from "disciplined" [in+disciplined]); conversion ("chairman" [noun] becomes "to chairman" [verb]); back derivation ("to aggress" i.e. "to assault" derives from "aggression"); compounding ("death celebration" for "funeral"); clipping of compound ("bath" for "bathroom"); and reduplication (e.g. "your team played very very well") (Simo Bobda ,1994: 245-258).

Another aspect of lexico-semantic innovation which is very prolific in New Englishes contexts and which has not been examined in the above reviewed works is idiomatic formation. Piatt (1984) provides some examples of new idioms in New Englishes such as in Papua New Guinean English (e.g., to be two-minded: to be in two minds, to be open-minded; to pass the hard times: to have a hard time, to pass a hard time, etc.), in Sri Lankan English (to put a clout: to give someone a clout; to put a telephone call: to make a telephone call; to put a feed: to have a good meal, etc.) in Singaporean and Malaysian English (to shake legs: to be idle), in Nigerian English (to declare surplus: to host a party), in East African English ( to be on the tarmac: to be in the process of finding a new job) (Piatt, 1984:107-110) just to name these few examples. …

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