Language shift arrest: The case of Mankon, in a multilingual setting

Fogwe, Evelyn
Fogwe, Evelyn
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The Demographic figures of Mankon and its dialects could suggest potential language viability; however, upon closer examination, this vernacular is in fact threatened (and endangered?). It is slowly and steadily dying as portrayed by some indicators as analyzed by Landweer (2000: 5-22) in her work ‘Indicators of Ethnolinguistic Vitality’, the recent UNESCO 2003 (nine) criteria for assessment of language vitality and endangerment and others. Recent findings indicate that Mankon, like a number of other Cameroonian (and African) languages of urban communities is characterised by a loss in vitality caused by a conjuncture of variables, which must be identified and diagnosis in order to undertake meaningful revitalization and development of the language in the perspective of its new status and function (cf. Bitja’a Kody (2001), Bruce Connel (2001), Neba, A. et al. (2006), Chibaka (2008) etc.). Cultural identity can be sustained only by revitalising and extending the usage domain of the language, which is the vehicle of cultural and linguistic transmission. Thus with respect to the identified problems causing the Mankon language shift, the goal of the study is sustaining the cultural and linguistic identity of the Mankon people. It is not enough to state the existence of, and importance attached to these cultural values but it must be learnt not only by the native speakers and their off-springs but also by interested persons out of the speech community such as researchers (linguists) for language typological studies, etc. In order to achieve the primary goal of this project, we undertook a number of specific objectives encapsulated through sociolinguistic surveys of language use patterns and language attitudes in the entire Mankon speech community at home (Bamenda and in the Diaspora (Mankon communities in Douala, Yaoundé, Limbe-Buea and Kumba)). The focus was the use of Mankon in relation to other languages and attitudes toward the language as well as attitudes of native speakers’ vis-à-vis the different languages of their linguistic repertoire. This study ascertains to investigate the nature and patterns of intergenerational transmission or lack of it and factors relevant to the phenomenon. 1. The survey addressed the extent to which bilingualism is replacive thereby favouring language shift rather than language maintenance etc. 2. Assessment of measures to undertake pertaining to revitalisation of the language on the basis of relevant findings of the sociolinguistic survey. We engaged in answering the questions: a) What do we do to sustain, maintain, and ensure the intergenerational transmission of the rich culture of the Mankon? b) What strategies must be put in place and what action undertaken to ensure revitalisation of the Mankon language? The answers are multi-facets but enveloped within the implementation of the different phases of the Principle of ‘Attitude Engineering’ proposed by Chumbow (2008). The establishment of captivating and productive media and literacy programmes to propagate the essence of usage, scope, and extension of Mankon. Key words: Language shift, arrest, Mankon, Multilingual setting, Vitality variables, Revitalisation, ‘Attitude Engineering’ and Development.
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