TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr. April 2010

Sektion 2.12. Multilingualism, Language Contact and Socio-cultural Dynamics
Sektionsleiter | Section Chair: George Echu (University of Yaounde I)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Section report 2.12.

Multilingualism, Language Contact and Socio-cultural Dynamics

George Echu (Université de Yaoundé I, Cameroun) [BIO]



The papers presented within the framework of the panel centred on how multilingualism and language contact could be seen as important parameters in observing transformation in societies, be they developed or developing. Here, the societies involved are African, European and American. Papers presented within the African context include those of Elizabeth Kumbong Amaazee, Godfrey Tangwa, Gérard Marie Noumssi, George Echu, Marie Desirée Sol, Edmond Biloa, Raïhanatou Yadji Abdou and Brigitte Weber. For the European context, there is Ellie Boyadzhieva’s paper; while for the American context, the papers of Agnes Whitfield and Daniel Gagnon are quite representative. The sub themes examined by the different presenters could be classified into two major areas: translation and language contact. Papers that dwelt on translation include those of Agnes Whitfield, Daniel Gagnon and Elizabeth Kumbong Amaazee. As for language contact, papers on this area include those of Ellie Boyadzhieva, Brigitte Weber, George Echu, Godfrey Tangwa, Gérard Marie Noumssi, Marie Desirée Sol, and Edmond Biloa.

Agnes Whitfield’s paper “The Circulation of Cultural Knowledge in Bilingual and Multilingual Contexts: a Canadian Case Study” examines how literary translations as cultural knowledge circulate in Canada. The author argues that bibliographical research shows gaps in literary translation activity between Anglophone and Francophone literatures, given that many works that each culture values as literary classics, as award-winning books or as objects of study in university courses are not available to the other culture in translation. Recent empirical studies including national surveys of booksellers, publishers, librarians and university teachers carried out by the researcher suggest that even when translations exist, there may be impediments to their circulation. These impediments include issues in inventory management practices, library cataloguing, insufficient editorial expertise in promoting translations and lack of public awareness of the value of translations for cultural exchange. In conclusion, based on insights from the Canadian context, some suggestions are made as to how improving the patterns of access to cultural knowledge in bilingual and multilingual contexts can increase the potential of cultural exchange for creative, respectful and reciprocal knowledge building.

Still within the Canadian perspective is Daniel Gagnon’s paper entitled “Language Contact and Literary Creativity: A Québec writer’s perspective”. Here, the author examines how language contact can be a source of literary creativity. Drawing inspiration from his own practice as a francophone writer working in the Canadian bilingual and multilingual context, the author examines the self-translating process as well as the use of another language within a literary text to explore how this inter-linguistic movement can highlight issues in the exchange and sharing of cultural knowledge. Both the writing and self-translation process offer insights into cultural differences and commonalities. In all, the author evaluates the reception of the literary works in each language and outlines the potential that this linguistic diversity has for opening up new sources of literary creativity.

In her paper “Lexical equivalents in French-English translation and their impact on Cameroon English”, Elizabeth Kumbong Amaazee illustrates that  because official translation is mostly done from French into English, the French language exerts a lot of lexical and cultural influence on Cameroon English. Besides cases of borrowing, loan translation and interference observed, the translation phenomenon is equally manifested through the creation of new lexical realities that are peculiar to Cameroon Standard English, making it distinct from other varieties of English around the globe. These preoccupations in the area of language contact are equally tha concern of the rest of the papers.  

In Reflections of Social Stereotypes in Modern Bulgarian Phraseology”, Ellie Boyadzhieva demonstrates that language reflects the development of the society which it serves following not only the transition of the economic, political and social life, but also rendering the beliefs and ways of thinking of the peoples sharing one language in a society. This relation may well be defined as 'mirror effect'. The presentation focused on the meaning of some set phrases and phraseological units in English and Bulgarian containing etnonyms, in order to find out what values they bear in the respective languages and thus to make conclusions as to how a language can reflect some stereotypical ways of perceiving foreign cultures. Special attention is paid to the transition from traditional models reflected in Bulgarian set phrases containing etnonyms to those borrowed from English. Some conclusions are drawn concerning the differences between the existing stereotypes in the two cultures. The issue of the possibilities of breaking up with traditional stereotypes and resisting the 'borrowing' of new ones as a result of the intensive contact of Bulgarian learners with English in the global world is discussed.

In her paper "German Influences on Cameroon Pidgin English”, Brigitte Weber examines possible German influences on Cameroon Pidgin English (CPE), otherwise known as Kamtok, a rich variety of West African Pidgin English spoken in Cameroon. The author attempts an examination of possible relics of German at the lexical and grammatical levels of CPE, given that German colonial influence in Cameroon lasted from 1884 to 1916 during which time this language was used as a lingua franca. Another paper that dwelt on CPE is that of George Echu. The study reveals that this widely used Cameroonian lingua franca is omnipresent through lexical borrowing and code-switching not only in everyday usage but also in the literary sphere. In fact, both writers of English and French expression make considerable use of Pidgin English in order to express certain realities and add colour and flavour to their literary productions.

Still within the Cameroonian context, Godfrey Tangwa explores the relationship between language, culture, identity and nativity. He posits that although language is certainly an important aspect of personal identity, it is, however, less clear whether a person’s native language fulfils this function better than any other language. Within Africa’s multilingual context characterized by indigenous linguistic diversity which has been further complexified by colonialism and the phenomenon of globalization, the language problematic is explored taking into consideration the relationship between language and culture, identity and nativity.

Gérard Marie Noumssi’s paper focuses on language contact as expressed through lexical creations that emanate from the indigenous cultural context. These lexical creations come about as a result of the multingual situation of African writers characterized by the use of colonial languages which are not the indigenous languages of the writers. This complex situation poses the perennial question of  the norm used. In carrying out this study, the author explores the literary works of two leading Francophone writers - Sembene Ousmane and Ahmadou Kourouma. This same problematic is examined in the paper of Marie Désirée Sol who shows that linguistic diversity and cultural pluralism as expressed through literary works are strong markers of the Cameroonian society, as well as individual and collective identity. 

Finally, in their paper, Edmond Biloa and  Raïhanatou Yadji Abdou reveal that contact between the French language and Fulfulde in north Cameroon has given rise to franfulfulde, a hybrid language spoken by students, young people and uneducated speakers. Linguistically, this language is characterised by borrowings, interference and code-switching.

In all, the major preoccupation of the different presenters is the same – multilingualism, language contact and socicultural dynamics.

2.12. Multilingualism, Language Contact and Socio-cultural Dynamics

Sektionsgruppen | Section Groups| Groupes de sections

TRANS   Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  17 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
George Echu:  Section Report 2.12: Multilingualism, Language Contact and Socio-cultural Dynamics - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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