This study examines the innovative and creative development of lexis in
Cameroon English. English in Cameroon evolves in a foreign geographical
setting where its users are people of different cultures who speak several
The broad corpus of the study consists of written texts such as official
and literary documents, and of spoken texts such as media programmes,
conversations and speeches. The narrow corpus, on the other hand, is made
up of a collection of new and adapted words which are widespread in the
variety. As for the informants, they are mature Cameroonians who are
holders of the GCE O' Level and higher diplomas; they can fully operate in
the English language and many of them actually make use of this language in
The analysis reveals several interesting facts about Cameroon English.
First of all, there exist a great number of adapted lexical terms in the
English used in Cameroon, which is a common feature observed elsewhere in
the world in most places where several languages come into contact.
Secondly, the vast majority of new and adapted words in Cameroon English
come from two widespread languages, namely French, the co-official language
of the country, and Pidgin English, a popular non-ethnic lingua franca.
Thirdly, while French donates words referring to government institutions
and procedural processes, Pidgin English contributes loans for
culture-specific domains such as traditional practices and foodstuffs.
Fourthly, of the various word formative processes observed in language, the
process of borrowing is by far the most productive in Cameroon English.
Lastly, because Cameroonians already speak two or more languages before
they start schooling and because, while in school, they learn to speak
English exclusively from written materials - with their teachers serving as
models - the sound system of English in the country is greatly modified: RP
phonemes are greatly simplified, and foreign sounds are constantly used;
word-stress is often shifted to different syllables, and tonal features are
occasionally attached to certain words.
While some of these adapted terms do have English equivalents, many of them
refer to concepts and objects which are new to the English community. There
is therefore a need for educationists and language teachers in particular,
to adjust their syllabus so as to accommodate those adapted terms whose
English equivalents are unknown to Cameroonian users or are hardly used by
them. There is also a need for lexicographers to bring together those terms
which refer to new entities unknown to the English community; these will
constitute Cameroon’s contribution to the development of English as a world
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