Language, home, and belonging in migratory contexts - the case of Camfranglais

Mbassi Manga, Constance and Sebba, Mark (2022) Language, home, and belonging in migratory contexts - the case of Camfranglais. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Urban hybrid linguistic registers (often called ‘youth languages’) have been researched for over 30 years (Simo-Souop, 2009; Harris, 2006 etc.). Camfranglais, which combines elements of French, English, Pidgin English and Cameroonian vernaculars, is no exception. Identified (and named) in the 1980s as an in-group language form used primarily to exclude adults, Camfranglais has aroused substantial sociolinguistic interest mainly in relation to the urban youth in Yaoundé, Cameroon, a country with two official languages (French and English) and 250+ vernaculars (De Féral, 2004; Lobe Ewane, 1989). Over the last twenty years, Camfranglais spread beyond the Cameroon-based youth. Accordingly, more recently, research started integrating attention to its use by adult Cameroonians in migratory contexts (Telep, 2014; Machetti & Siebetcheu, 2013), at a time when the diverse ethnic composition of major Western cities is thought to have led to an increased diversification of linguistic practices. Using a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) perspective, combined with a Linguistic Ethnographic lens, this thesis draws out an understanding of the role and function(s) of Camfranglais from Skype interviews of a group of adult Cameroonians living in Europe and the US (against the aforementioned backdrop), and chats from a Facebook-based group dedicated to Camfranglais. The analysis of the transcripts shows that both groups engage with Camfranglais, and no longer use the register to exclude non-speakers. In the participants’ accounts of the place and value of language in their life trajectories, and in the Facebook chats, the presence of markers of identity, home and belonging reveals that Camfranglais creates a sense of closeness and community between speakers, reinforcing the feeling that they belong. The study highlights Camfranglais’ symbolic value and its role as an expression of a diasporic Cameroonian identity, a coping mechanism useful for negotiations of home and belonging in online and offline communities of practice.

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Thesis (PhD)
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04 Aug 2022 09:25
Last Modified:
29 Jan 2024 00:13