Cameroon English morphology and syntax

Cameroon English morphology and syntax: Current trends in action. By Paul N. Mbangwana and Bonaventure M. Sala. (LINCOM studies in English linguistics 15.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2009. Pp. 302. ISBN 9783895865220. $99.

Reviewed by Eric A. Anchimbe, University of Bayreuth

This book is a new addition to the growing literature on grammatical and structural aspects of new English varieties in postcolonial areas. It adopts an emic approach that aims to identify morphological and syntactic features and to describe them in terms of their motivation and innovation among Cameroonian users of English independent of British English rules. This non-contrastive approach adds to the authenticity of the Cameroon variety of English (CamE) and further indicates that the process of indigenization or nativization is ongoing and gives the language an ecological flare that reflects the context in which it is now used.

The six chapters in the book tackle issues of origin and definition of CamE (Ch. 1), theories and analytical approaches to new Englishes (Ch. 2), morphological processes in CamE (Ch. 3), phrase structure and embedding in CamE (Ch. 4), syntactic transformations (Ch. 5), and stabilized features of CamE and the patterns of their emergence (Ch. 6). Several morphosyntactic aspects of CamE that are barely mentioned in previous literature are investigated in greater detail in this book. These include the use of affixes; noun, verb, adverb, and adjective markers; multiple functions of –ing; remorphemization and demorphemization processes at the morphological level; functional descriptions of that-clauses, that-adverbials, when-clauses, until-clauses, question transformations, and issues of dangling modifiers, modifier stranding, modifier focusing, and disjuncts at the syntactic level. Although the above aspects are discussed and extensively exemplified using a corpus of oral and written CamE, the authors do not claim that all of them constitute the standard. Standardization of CamE grammar is one of the aims of the book; the authors claim in the preface, ‘this book is timely because it falls within linguistic concerns of researchers in the domain, as getting a standard for CamE through adequate description is a major preoccupation of ongoing research work’ (9).

In Ch. 6, the authors advance explanations and hypotheses for the variant processes investigated in the book. Indigenization, they say, is aided by differences between Cameroonian and British cultures and the general sociophysical ecology as well as semantic and structural pressures on Cameroonians to produce structures understandable to the local audience. These pressures which result in various types of conceptual transliterations could be explained using the grating-over-transfer hypothesis and the imposed-versus-imposing variety hypothesis proposed by the authors. In both hypotheses, speakers of the variety are regarded as references for its standard, which may not always be the same as the inner-circle standards.

The book comes across as a useful, quick-to-access reading on the morphosyntax of CamE. Though certain claims made therein are strong and not always supported by empirical evidence, the authors’ attempt to describe CamE in its sociohistorical context is commendable. Their description of CamE features is illuminating, especially when the features are considered as emerging out of the speakers’ convenience with use of the language for daily interaction. The appendix provides more examples of CamE syntactic structures taken from written sources (i.e. novels). Scholars of World Englishes, sociolinguistics, contact linguistics, African linguistics and cultures, and linguistic anthropology will find this book relevant both as an introductory text and as a research companion.