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Multilingualism and the heteroglossia of ideologies in Lower Fungom (Cameroon): Use and attitudes

Issue: Vol 14 No. 3 (2020) Special Issue: African sociolinguistics between urbanity and rurality

Journal: Sociolinguistic Studies

Subject Areas: Gender Studies Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/sols.38799


Located at the northwestern edge of the Cameroonian Grassfields, Lower Fungom is a rural, linguistically highly diverse region (pop. ca. 12,000) where individual multilingualism in three local languages plus Cameroonian Pidgin English (henceforth CPE) is the norm, with a minority also speaking Cameroonian English. This article focuses on the different types of identity that can be projected via the use of English, CPE, and the local languages. Data come from language documentation projects and include self-reports, ethnographic observations, and analysis of language use. Such a diverse dataset allows us to uncover and discuss a number of aspects of the local language ideologies. Key here is the recognition that only exoglossic languages allow the representation of different identities qua membership in stereotypical categories – such as the case of English, which calls up stereotypes connected with authority and prestige – whereas the use of local languages is associated with village affiliation and, hence, relational rather than categorical identities. This ideological layer is not regimented by any form of prestige- or domain-based compartmentalization and, therefore, can hardly be captured by classical theories such as Fishman’s (1967) extended diglossia theory, whose limits in doing research on African rural settings are highlighted. Also, inspired by Jenks and Lee (2016), this article suggests the existence of a heteroglossia of ideologies of personal identity (relational vs. categorical) most likely determined by the relatively recent entry of English in the local language ecology.

Author: Pierpaolo Di Carlo, Angiachi Demetris Esene Agwara, Rachel Ojong Diba

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