The multilingual pragmatics of Cameroon English

31 May 2024
Room F1

The multilingual pragmatics of Cameroon English

African Englishes have been studied widely in terms of structural phenonema, such as pronunciation, lexis, and syntax. Pragmatic aspects, however, have hitherto been largely neglected despite varying systematically, e.g. regarding emphasising (Jeffrey and van Rooy, 2004), requesting (Anderson, 2006) or gender differences and politeness (Hampel, 2015). In addition, almost all research has focused on adults. Studies on any linguistic aspect or variation patterns including children are extremely rare.

The current paper addresses both gaps and provides a first insight into aspects of pragmatics in the speech of children in Cameroon.

Cameroon English (CamE) refers to the multiple varieties of English spoken in the West African country by speakers of varying fluency, ethnic, linguistic and socio-cultural backgrounds. As far as scholarly treatments are concerned, the description of CamE structural properties is relatively under-researched and is restricted to the acrolectal variety (Gut, 2017). One of the aspects that has so far been neglected in empirical research on CamE is pragmatics.

This study is part of a wider project on language acquisition in Cameroon which aims to provide a first description of the acquisitional route of Cameroonian children in a multilingual society. The study will draw on conversational data collected in a primary school in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, through sociolinguistic interviews, map drawing tasks, and memory games. More specifically, the study will highlight multilingual variation in CamE by analysing the use of address forms, sentence-final variant question tags and pragmatic markers including English (e.g., isn’t it, right), French (e.g., voila, ça va) as well as vernacular/indigenous Cameroonian forms.



Anderson, J. A. (2006). Request forms in English in Ghana. Legon Journal of the Humanities 17, 75-103.

Gut, U. (2017). English in West Africa. In Markku Filppula, Juhani Klemola & Devyani Sharma (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of World Englishes (pp. 491-507). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hampel, Elisabeth. 2015. “Mama Zimbi, pls help me!”: Gender differences in (im) politeness in Ghanaian English advice-giving on Facebook. Journal of Politeness Research 11(1). 99–130.

Jeffery, Chris & Bertus van Rooy. 2004. Emphasizer now in colloquial South African English. World Englishes 23(2). 269-280.