Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

The Metalanguage of Corruption in Cameroon-Part I: The Registers of General Administration, Transport and Education

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

The Metalanguage of Corruption in Cameroon-Part I: The Registers of General Administration, Transport and Education

Article excerpt


This paper analyses the metalanguage of corruption in Cameroon. Using examples from the registers of General Administration, Transport and Education, from the sociolinguistic frame, the paper shows that the widespread corruption in Cameroon has led to the development of a rich specialized language to discuss it. In the sectors of General Administration, Transport and Education, simple and neutral expressions in Cameroon French, Cameroon English and Cameroon Pidgin English have acquired subtle meanings that they need the interpretation of someone who knows the system to be fully understood. This study thus tries to throw some light on this domain so far unexplored.

Keywords: metalanguage, corruption, bribery, general administration, transport, education

1. Introduction

In recent years, corruption has become so rampant across the globe that for some time now a German-based NGO, Transparency International has been ranking many countries of the world according to their index of corruption. These ill practices are generally seen as the plague of the poor countries. However, from the numerous conferences organised on this phenomenon and the various tables of classification of Transparency International, it is often quite surprising (amusing) to see the rank occupied by some rich and respectable countries. For instance, in 2013, France was ranked 22nd on 177 most corrupt countries of the world; in the same table, Germany was ranked 12th and the UK 14th. In February 1995, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung organised a conference on corruption in Germany. When the papers of the conference were later published under the title "Corruption in Germany: its causes, its manifestation, and strategies to fight against it", they drew a high level of attention in the German media, and in the German society as a whole (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Cameroon Report, 1999:6). Though a scourge which has already caused a lot of harm to humanity, and which has to be fought by all means, the various findings of Transparency International simply reveal that corruption is part of human being, something that exists in countries the world over.

Cameroon, which already topped the world's most corrupt countries in 1998 and 1999, was still ranked 144th on 177 most corrupt countries in 2013. This, however, let to some jubilation by the government. In 2014, the country was ranked 136th on 175. The score from 2012 to 2014 was virtually the same: 26 in 2012, 25 in 2013, and 27 in 2014. A rich specialized language used to talk of bribery in general, and to ask/give or receive it in all sectors of the country has therefore developed in Cameroon. To date, many studies have been conducted on this ill practice in Cameroon and on how to curb it (Ndangam, 2006; Peh & Drori, 2010; Cerutti et al., 2012, etc.), but the specialized language used to ask/give or receive bribe has not yet drawn the attention of scholars. From the sociolinguistic frame, this paper (which is the first part of a series of two) looks at the metalanguage of corruption in the sectors of general administration, transport and education in Cameroon, to show how simple words and expressions can have very subtle meanings in this context.

2. Short Presentation of the Cameroonian Linguistic Landscape

The Cameroonian linguistic landscape is very complex. With its 239 local languages (Mba, 2009, p. 551), Pidgin English (Todd, 1974; Ferral, 1976; Mbangwana, 1983; Ayafor, 1996 & 2000; Menang, 2004; Atechi, 2011), Camfranglais (Tiayon Lekobou, 1985; Lobe Ewane, 1989; Chia, 1990; Biloa, 1999; Kouega, 2003, etc.), and the two official languages, namely French and English, Cameroon is among the most linguistically complex countries of Africa. Only the Democratic Republic of Congo, with about 250 home languages, has so high a number.

In Cameroon, 239 local languages co-exist and are spoken by various ethnic communities to transmit their cultural heritage. But apart from some vehicular languages such as Fulfulde (Note 1) and Ewondo (Note 2) which cross the boundaries of many ethnic communities, the vast majority of Cameroonian home languages are restricted to small areas where they are spoken by a few people. …

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