INFLUENCE OF CAMEROON PIDGIN ENGLISH ON THE LINGUISTIC
AND CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE FRENCH LANGUAGE1
University of Yaounde I
Cameroon is a Central African country where 247 indigenous languages
coexist side by side with two official languages (English and French), and a lingua
franca (Cameroon Pidgin English). Linguistic borrowing, interference, code
switching, loan translation, and other manifestations of language contact characterize
this particularly dense multilingual sit uation. In fact, the languages mutually exert
some influence on one another. Such influence may be from the official languages to
the indigenous languages (Bitja’a Kody, 1998), from the indigenous languages to the
official languages (Echu, 1999; Kouega, 1998; Zang Zang, 1998), from the
indigenous languages to Cameroon Pidgin English (Menang, 1979), from the official
languages to Cameroon Pidgin English (Schneider, 1966; Mbassi Manga, 1973), from
Cameroon Pidgin English to the official languages (Kouega, 1998), from Cameroon
Pidgin English to indigenous languages or from one official language to the other
(Mbangwana, 1999; Kouega, 1999).
This paper focuses on the influence of Cameroon Pidgin English (CPE) on the
linguistic and cultural development of the Fre nch language. Various studies carried
out on the French language in Cameroon reveal the presence of CPE loans not only in
spoken French but also in local Cameroonian newspapers, and literary works. The
rapid expansion of CPE as a lingua franca in Cameroon undoubtedly has an important
role to play in this process, given the gradual appropriation of this language by
The study is divided into four main parts. The first part surveys the language
situation in Cameroon, shedding light on the multilingual nature of the country as well
as on the place of French and CPE. The second part is a presentation of the
methodology and corpus used for the work, while the third part focuses on the lexical
influence of CPE loans on French. Finally, the fourth part probes into the semantic
and cultural value of CPE loans.
1. Overview of Language Situation
1.1. Multilingualism in Cameroon
Cameroon is a multilingual country comprising 247 indigenous languages,
two official languages and Cameroon Pidgin English (see Breton and Fohtung, 1991;
Boum Ndongo-Semengue and Sadembouo, 1999). Although Ethnologue (2002) puts
the number of indigenous languages for Cameroon at 279, these figures are
challenged by scholars such as Wolf (2001) for not being an accurate reflection of the
current language situation, more so since dialects of the same language are sometimes
considered as different languages. Of the four major language families of Africa, three
are represented in Cameroon. They are the Afro-Asiatic, the Nilo-Saharan and the
Niger -Congo. Languages belonging to the Afro-Asiatic and Nilo -Saharan families are
1 This paper was presented at Cultures in Motion: the Africa Connection , an international conference
which took place at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville from February 5 -9, 2003.
spoken in the north of the country. Niger-Congo languages, which are the most highly
represented in Cameroon, are spoken in the southern region.
The languages of wider communication are Fulfulde, Ewondo, Basaa, Duala,
Hausa, Wandala, Kanuri, Arabe Choa, CPE (Breton and Fohtung, 1991: 20) and
French. In all, three lingua franca zones can be distinguished in Cameroon: the
Fulfulde lingua franca zone , the Pidgin English lingua franca zone and the French
lingua franca zone (Wolf, 2001:155). Such a division should not be taken to be rigid,
given the overlap observable in terms of language use. The Fulfulde lingua franca
zone covers the Adamawa, the North and the Far North provinces of Cameroon where
it served as the language of Islam as far back as the 17th century. CPE is widely used
not only in the North-West and South-West provinces (Anglophone provinces), but
also in the Littoral and West provinces. As for French, its role as a language of wider
communication is traced to the post-independence period, following the gradual but
massive acquisition of this language by Cameroonians of all walks of life. Thus apart
from the three northern provinces (where Fulfulde thrives as a lingua franca) and the
two Anglophone provinces (where Pidgin English is the de facto lingua franca),
French plays this role in the rest of the other five Francophone provinces 2.
The two official languages, English and French, came into the Cameroon
linguistic scene in 1916 when Britain and France divided Cameroon into two unequal
parts after defeating Germany in Cameroon during the First World War. The new
colonial masters then sought to impose their languages in the newly acquired territory,
both in the areas of education and administration. This led to the solid implantation of
the two languages between 1916 and 1960, a situation that was reinforced after
Cameroon became independent. At Reunification in 1961, English and French
became the two official languages of Cameroon as the country opted for the policy of
official language bilingualism.
1.2. The French Language in Cameroon
Although an official language since 1960 when the country became
independent, the presence of French in Cameroon can be traced as far back as 1916
when France became one of the administering authorities of the country. The French
who obtained four-fifths of the country, administered it as an independent territory,
while the British annexed their share to neighboring Nigeria.
In the new French territory referred to as ‘French Cameroon’ French was not
only taught in schools but was also used for administration throughout the colonial
period. Language policy during the French colonial period favored the development
of the French language in every respect. Thus while French was promoted at school,
indigenous languages were banned from the school system (see Stumpf, 1979; Bitja’a
Kody, 1999). At independence, French was logically adopted as the official language
of the country, not only because the linguistic diversity of the country did not permit
the emergence of an indigenous language likely to play the role of official language
but also for reasons of national unity. French thus became the language of education,
administration, politics, culture, the media, etc, and consequently the language of
communication for an important component of the population. Couvert (1983: 31)
sums up the historical evolution of the French language in Cameroon in the following
manner: a) 1919-1944 – French becomes progressively the language of administration
and of communication between the French colonialist and Cameroonians in such
2 It is important to note that Cameroon is divided into ten administrative units known as ‘provinces’.
Eight of them are French-speaking (Far-North, North, Adamawa, Center, South, East, West, and
Littoral) while two are English -speaking (South-West and North-West).
situations as the administration, the army and master/servant relationships, b) 1944-
1961 – French is both the official and vehicular language in urban centers, c) 1961-
1972 – French is one of the two official languages in Cameroon (the other one being
English) but it is mostly used in East Cameroon, d) 1972-1982 – reinforcement of the
position of the French language within the framework of the policy of official
Renaud (1976: 23) distinguishes four main varieties of French spoken in
Cameroon: dialectes régionaux et de “quartier” (regional dialects), français commun
(ordinary French) , argots (slang) and français langue étrangère (French as a foreign
language). According to him, regional dialects are spoken by illiterates and school
dropouts, while ordinary French is spoken by those who have limited educational
background – usually incomplete secondary education. In view of the present day
evolution of the language, these varieties are rather difficult to distinguish. In reality,
one may talk of Standard Cameroonian French (SCF) used in formal situations such
as the school context, newspapers, radio, television, administrative offices, etc, and
Cameroon Popular French (CPF) which is used mostly for informal everyday
communication by illiterates and semi-illiterates alike. Both varieties of French
borrow lexical items not only from CPE but also from Cameroon English and the
The French language in Cameroon fulfils at least six different functions:
official language, second language, mother tongue, vehicular language, school
language and foreign language (Ongue ne Essono, 1999: 287). Although Onguene
Essono attributes such a wide spectrum of functions to French, these functions can
basically be subsumed into three: official language, language of wider communication
and mother tongue. As an official language, the French language dominates the
educational system and administration. Demographically 80% of Cameroon is
French-speaking. As the main language of instruction, an overwhelming majority of
schools in Cameroon use French as the medium of instruction. French domination is
equally felt at the level of administration where both oral and written communication
is almost exclusively carried out in French, the language of the majority. Thus, given
its geographical spread, French is used in all spheres of life, be they formal or
informal. Findings obtained from a linguistic survey carried out between 1977 and
1978 indicate that 87% of children interviewed in the Francophone provinces speak
French (cf. Koenig et al., 1983: 94-95). If such a high percentage was recorded more
than 20 years ago, there is no doubt that the situation has witnessed some positive
evolution, given the growing literacy rate in Cameroon in particular and the Sub-
Saharan African region in general.
As an official language of the country, French is acquired primarily within the
formal school environment, a fact supported by the literacy rate of the country that
stands at 65% and the school attendance rate that stands at 70% (cf. Chumbow &
Simo Bobda, 2000: 46). These figures indicate that a good number of Cameroonians
can read and write French and/or English. Several Francophone Cameroonians who
live in urban centers can also speak French acquired mainly in informal situations.
Thus, in the absence of a lingua franca that ensures nationwide communication, the
French language functions as a language of wider communication in towns and cities
of the Francophone part of the country3. As the dominant official language and one of
3 As a lingua franca, French is mainly used in the Centre, South, East, West and Littoral provinces
generally among speakers of different ethno-linguistic origins. This does not imply that it is not used in
other parts of the country in the same capacity. Although Fulfulde is the dominant lingua franca in the
the most widely spoken languages in the country, the French language not only exerts
varying degrees of influence on the other languages but is also open to influence from
these languages, among them CPE.
1.3. Evolution of CPE
What scholars today generally refer to as CPE has been variously termed
“Cameroon Creole” (Schneider, 1960), “Wes-Kos” (Schneider, 1963), “West African
Pidgin English” (Schneider, 1967), “Cameroon Pidgin (CamP)” (Todd, 1982), and
“Kamtok” (Ngome, 1986). Other non-scholarly appellations such as “bush English” ,
“bad English” and “broken English” have equally been used to describe this language.
The latter appellations have been based on the widespread belief that Pidgin English,
be it of the Cameroonian variety or other existing varieties such as Nigerian Pidgin
English and Ghanaian Pidgin English, is a simplified form of English used mostly by
non-educated people in some of the former British colonies of West Africa. The name
“Cameroon Pidgin English” (Féral, 1978; Menang, 1979) has so far gained a lot of
popularity at the level of scholarship and consequently most linguists carrying out
research on Cameroon today have adopted it. The adoption of this terminology makes
it relatively easier to define this language as the Pidgin English used in Cameroon, as
opposed to varieties used in other countries.
The birth of CPE is often traced as far back as the 18th century when English
traders and missionaries set foot on the coast of West Africa. Pidgin English
developed to guarantee effective communication in the area of trade and
evangelization. After the abolition of slave trade at the beginning of the 19th century,
this language continued to expand all over the coastal region. It was used by some of
the newly freed slaves who settled in Fernando Po, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and later
moved to the Cameroonian coastal town of Victoria where they worked for the
Cameroon Development Corporation (an agro-industrial complex created by the
Germans in July 1884). The numerous road and railway construction projects where
the colonialists practiced forced labor also ser ved as a fertile ground for the growth
and development of CPE. Given that these work sites brought together people from
diversified ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, Pidgin English was the only language
that could facilitate communication. Consequently, throughout the German colonial
period in Cameroon (1884-1916), Pidgin English continued to be widely used.
Following the Franco-British occupation of Cameroon as of 1916, CPE
witnessed a new period of its history. In British Cameroon, where it was mainly
spoken, English and the indigenous languages enriched its vocabulary. Then with the
birth of the Federal Republic of Cameroon on October 1, 1961, CPE further
experienced French influence, as well as influence from the local languages of
French-speaking Cameroon. Thus in the mid sixties, 85% of CPE terms came from
English, 13% from indigenous languages and 2% from other languages, including
French and Portuguese (Schneider, 1966: 5). By the early seventies, this situation had
changed significantly: 80% of CPE lexicon was English-based, 14% came from
indigenous languages, 5% from French and 1% from other languages (Mbassi Manga,
1973). Such a drastic change can be attributed to the political evolution of the
country, since Cameroon moved from a federation to a unitary state in which both
Anglophones and Francophones henceforth had freedom of movement. Presently,
CPE is no longer perceived exclusively as a lingua franca of the Anglophone
three northern provinces and Pidgin English in the two A nglophone provinces, French is still used in
these areas by a minority of the population.
population, but as a language with a possible national dimension giv en that its
influence is felt in several major towns of the eight Francophone provinces where it is
also spoken (Féral, 1980: 46). In urban as well as rural areas, CPE is used in churches,
in market places, in motor parks, in railway stations, in the street, as well as in other
informal situations. In fact, this ‘no man’s language’ continues to be very present in
the daily socioeconomic lives of the people, serving as a bridge between
Cameroonians of various walks of life. Although Ethnologue (2002) estima tes its
speakers at 2 million people, the number is quite conservative when one takes into
consideration the numerous potential Francophone speakers and immigrants of
Nigerian and Ghaniain origin scattered all over the national territory.
Like French, CPE is one of the most widely used languages of wider
communication in Cameroon. During the colonial period, it enabled European
colonizers to interact with the indigenous population and facilitated communication
among people from various ethnic groups in social, economic, and religious contexts.
Today, it remains the language of daily interaction in informal situations and one of
the preferred languages of popular music. It is used in humorous situations and for
making jokes. It is equally used to express certain taboos, for instance when
discussing love and sex in public.
As far as the varieties of CPE are concerned, Féral (1980: 5) is of the opinion
that there are two main varieties: one spoken by Anglophones and the other spoken by
Francophones. Todd (1982) is, however, not of the same opinion. She distinguishes
five varieties of CPE: Bamenda CamP, Bororo CamP, Coastal CamP, Francophone
CamP and Liturgical CamP. Our opinion is that there are four distinct varieties of
CPE: the Grassland variety spoken in the North-West province, the Bororo variety
spoken by the Bororo, the Coastal variety spoken in the South-West province and the
Francophone variety spoken by Francophones. What Todd considers as the Liturgical
variety is, in our opinion, nothing other than a register peculiar to the religious
2. Methodology and Presentation of Corpus
In carrying out this study, we collected a list of sixty (60) recurrent lexical
items from CPE observed in French usage in Cameroon. In other words, the corpus
retained is made up of CPE words that one hears often in CPF, reads in Cameroon
newspapers in French such as Le Messager Popoli, L’Expression de Mamy Wata and
Patrimoine and comes across in Cameroon popular music or in Cameroon literature in
French. Their va rious contexts of usage (whether oral or written) were analyzed.
Then, we investigated the extent of their usage in French by consulting French
dictionaries, glossaries and encyclopedia so as to verify the degree to which the
French language has absorbed the lexical items in question. Furthermore, we
examined the semantic and cultural influence of the CPE loans studied on the target
In constituting our corpus, some existing lexical inventories were quite
instrumental to the study. This is the case of the Inventaire des particularités lexicales
du français du Cameroun (Inventory of Lexical Peculiarities of Cameroon French),
otherwise known as IFA, published by Gervais Mendo Ze, Jean Tabi Manga and
Rachel Efoua-Zengue in 1979, which is the first doc umented inventory of lexical
peculiarities of the French language in Cameroon (cf. Mendo Ze et al., 1979). This
inventory contains 22 CPE loans. Later inventories such as the IFA inventory of 1983
contain 27 CPE loans, while the IFA inventory of 1988 contains 28. Our participation,
since 1998, in the IFACAM II (Inventaire des Particularités Lexicales du français en
Afrique - Cameroun) project, which focuses on the preparation of an inventory of
lexical peculiarities of the French language in Cameroon, has been quite instrumental
in the constitution of the present corpus. In carrying out this exercise, we did however
encounter some difficulties, such as determining in certain cases which loans are of
CPE origin and which are of indigenous language origin. In fact, given that some
indigenous language terms get into the French language via CPE (e.g. njoh , mbout,
nyanga), it was not easy deciding where to classify them. However, considering the
fact that this category of words came to be known and widely used in Cameroon
through CPE, it was therefore agreed that they could effectively be considered as CPE
loans. In other cases, certain lexical items are used across several indigenous
languages, as well as in CPE, such that issues relating to their origins become not only
uncertain but also problematic. Once more, our guiding principle here for considering
them as CPE loans is that they came to be widely known to the public and borrowed
by French through CPE. In a few cases, we were unable to trace the origin of certain
lexical items. However, given that research in this area is still in its embryonic stage,
issues relating to the origin of such loans will certainly be clarified with time.
The lexical items presented below constitute the corpus for this study.
Africa gin : (other indigenous names are arki, fofo and odontol) from the English
compound noun ‘African gin’. Locally brewed alcoholic drink made from
fermented corn, cassava or palm wine.
This term was widely used during
the French colonial period in Camer oon, especially after the Second World
War. Today, it is more and more replaced by loans from Cameroonian
languages such as fofo and odontol. Source of loan: novel by Oyono (1956a:
arata : (other appellations are aratha, arata die or arata tchop die ) from the English
word ‘rat’. Name given to poison used to kill rats that infest households. This
product, which probably comes from neighboring Nigeria, was first seen in the
local markets in the early 1990s. Thus the loan was first noticed in the Fre nch
language during this period. Source of loan: Cameroonian newspaper in
French Le Messager Popoli, N° 555 of 22 Feb. 2001, p. 4.
assia : interjection used to express compassion; courage. This loan is generally used
in CPF and its usage can be traced as far back as the late 1970s. Source of
loan: Cameroonian newspaper in French Le Messager Popoli, N° 569 of 12
Apr. 2001, p. 3.
bad luck : (also called balok or barlok) bad luck or ill luck. This loan is commonly
used as an interjection expressing astonishment or surprise in daily
communication, and its usage in CPF can be traced back to the 1970s. Source
of loan: novel by Beyala (1987: 15).
bayam sellam: (also written bayam-sellam) from the English verbs ‘to buy’ and ‘to
sell’. Noun used to refer to a market woman who buys foodstuff in rural areas
and retails it in the cities. This loan entered CPF in the 1980s when the role of
female foodstuff retailers became increasingly important in the economy. In
the 1990s, its usage spread from CPF to SCF as leading politicians and
statesmen used it in their discourse in the absence of a more appropriate
Standard French equivalent. Source of loan: novel by Beyala (1998: 21) and
Cameroonian newspaper in French L’Expression de Mamy Wata , N° 167 of 4
Jan. 2001, p. 11)
benam: (synonym is bend skin ) from the English verb ‘to bend’. Motorcycle used as a
means of passenger transport in urban areas. This lexical item entered CPF
current usage in the early 1990s when the economic crisis intensified in
Cameroon following a major political crisis in the country in 1992. The
motorcycle became a major means of transport in urban areas like Douala
when traditional means of transport such as the yellow cab were forced by the
radical opposition political parties to go on strike. Source of loan: generally
used in daily oral communication.
bend skin : from the English words ‘bend’ and ‘skin’. Signifies: a) a type of music and
dance from the Bamileke region; b) motorcycle used as a means of passenger
transport in urba n areas. This lexical item first entered CPF through the
domain of music and dance in the early 1990s, where it signified a new type of
music from the Bamileke region in the West province that was danced by
bending one’s chest forward while allowing the buttocks to protrude behind.
This posture of the dancer was soon likened to that of the passenger who sat
on a motorcycle with his/her chest forward and buttocks backwards, whence
the name bend skin given to motorcycles used as a means of passenger
transport in urban areas. Source: oral usage where it refers to a particular type
of music or dance, or a motorcycle used for commercial purposes.
ben -skinneur: from the English words ‘bend’ and ‘skin’. This name is
the driver of a motorcycle used as a means of passenger transport in urban
areas. The term is used especially in CPF by young urban dwellers, and can be
traced back to the late 1990s. Source of loan: Cameroonian newspaper in
French L’Expression de Mamy Wata , N°175 of 1 March 2001, p. 3.
bitter cola : (also called bita cola or mbita cola ) from the English words ‘bitter’ and
‘kola nut’. It is a type of kola nut that has a sour taste, and believed to serve as
a form of viagra. The scientific name is gasima kola . Its presence in CPF can
be traced back to the 1970s. Source of loan: oral discourse, especially in the
born house: from the English words ‘born’ and ‘house’ (house in which a child has
been born). Refers to a ceremony organized following the birth of a child.
During this ceremony, which usually takes place in the home of the parents of
the newborn baby, friends and well-w ishers are invited. The word born house
found its way into CPF in the 1990s with the spread of this social practice in
Francophone urban centers. It is used frequently in oral communication among
people of different ethnic backgrounds.
came-no -go: from the English words ‘come’, ‘not’ and ‘go’ (that which comes and
refuses to go away). It refers to a persistent kind of skin infection caused by an
animal parasite. This loan entered CPF in the early 1990s when the
parasite was first observed in Cameroon. Source of loan: Cameroonian
newspaper in French Le Messager Popoli, N° 557 of 1 March 2001, p. 6.
djambo: (also ndjambo ) game of gambling in which playing cards are used. This loan
has existed in CPF since the 1960s when it was used in Douala and some
other Francophone urban centers especially among gamblers. It is frequently
used in oral communication. Source of loan: oral context in Equipe IFA, 1983,
dokta : (also dokita) from the English word ‘doctor’. It refers to a medical doctor or by
extension any other member of the medical corp. Its introduction into CPF
dates from the 1960s. Source of loan: novel by Mongo Beti (1974: 94) and
some oral sources observed in everyday interaction.
fever grass: from the English words ‘fever’ and ‘grass’. Refers to a type of herb used
as a tisane for curing fever and malaria. The presence of this term in CPF dates
from the 1990s, and the term is used in oral communication.
fufu: (also foufou and fou -fou ) dough made from ground cassava, and used as staple
food in many parts of Cameroon. The word is believed to be a West African
Pidgin English loan from Twi ‘fufuu’ (The Concise Oxfo rd Dictionary, 1999,
p. 571). The word fufu exists in CPF since the 1970s. It is used in everyday
discourse as a synonym of the French word couscous. Source of loan: oral
source in Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 198.
fufu corn: from the English word ‘corn fufu’. It refers to a type of fufu made from
corn. Fufu corn is one of the staple dishes of Cameroonians from the North-
West province. Although it has existed in CPE from time immemorial, its
presence in CPF dates from the 1990s. Source of loan: CPF oral usage .
gnama gnama: (also written nyama nyama) small; person or thing of little value or
importance. This word used both as a noun and as an adjective made its way
into CPF in the early 1980s through oral usage. Source of lexical item:
Cameroonian newspaper in French L’Expression de Mamy Wata , N° 175 of 1
March 2001, p. 5.
hope eye: from the English ‘open eye’ (the act of opening one’s eyes), which means
‘the act of intimidating’ or ‘making people fear’. The word hope eye, very
common in the oral usage of young urban speakers of CPF, dates from the
1970s. Source of loan: oral context in Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 233.
juju: (other appellations are juju kalaba , ndjounjou, ndjoudjou or ndjounjou kalaba )
mask made from calabash (whence the name kalaba) and worn es pecially by
children for entertainment performances; masquerade; ugly person. The use of
this term is common among young people. Its date of entry into CPF is
uncertain. Source of loan: oral context in Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 329.
katika: from the English word ‘caretaker’. The word refers to a security guard in
charge of a public place like cinema hall, recreation ground, casino, etc. It
entered current CPF usage in the late 1980s among young urban dwellers, as
expressed essentially in oral discourse.
kelen kelen: local variety of spinach used for preparing a type of sticky soup. The
scientific name of this vegetable is corchorus olitorius. Basically used in the
CPF spoken around Douala in market places, its usage dates from the 1970s.
kolo : one thousand CFA francs. The word kolo entered CPF spoken in Douala through
bandits and highway robbers in the late 1960s. Today, it is not only used in
the CPF of young city dwellers but also in Camfranglais, a local slang. Source
of loan: oral context in Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 263.
kontchaf: from the English words ‘corn’ and ‘chaff’. It refers to a local dish prepared
by mixing corn and beans cooked in palm oil. Although the use of this term is
recurrent in urban contexts (especially in prison circles where the dish is
consumed almost on a daily basis), its date of entry into Cameroon French is
kpa coco: from Bakweri ‘kpa’ and English ‘cocoyam’. Name used for a local dish
prepared from cocoyam or cassava paste wrapped in cocoyam or plantain
leave s and cooked with palm oil. It is a staple dish among the Bakweri of the
South-West province, but also commonly found among other ethnic
groups of the coastal region such as the Banyangs, the Basaas and the
Bakokos. Among the Bakweris, it is generally eaten together with mbanga
soup. The first Cameroonian speakers of French who got into contact with this
term are civil servants and military personnel who served around Buea in the
1960s. Today, given that kpa coco is a national Cameroonian dish, the use of
the term is gaining currency not only in CPF but also in SCF.
makala : doughnuts made from corn, beans or cassava. A highly appreciated dish for
breakfast, it is usually eaten together with beans or with maize porridge known
as pap. Its presence in CPF dates from the 1950s around the Douala region.
Source of loan: oral context in Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 289.
mallam: comes from the Hausa word mãlam(i) and refers to a scribe who possesses
in-depth knowledge of Islam, or a highly respected member of the Muslim
community. In the Cameroonian context, the word is commonly used to refer
to a traditional medicine man from the North of Cameroon. It is this extended
meaning of the word that is used in CPE since the 1960s. Source of lexical
item: novel by Mongo Beti (2000: 151).
mami-wata: (other common spellings are mamiwata , mamie water and mamy wata )
from the English words ‘mammy’ and ‘water’ (mother of the water). Refers to
mermaid; a very beautiful woman. The word has been used in oral contexts in
CPF since the early 1960s. Source of loan: Dooh-Bunya (1977: 270).
mandjanga: variety of small smoked prawns used in cooking in order to give flavor
to local dishes. Its use in CPF dates from the 1970s. Source of loan: oral
context in Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 294.
manjunga: (also majunga) a type of relatively inexpensive and popular red wine
(originally of French origin) bottled in Cameroon. This word has been in
existence in CPF since the colonial period when French traders introduced red
wine in Cameroon. Source of loan: oral context in Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 289.
massa: from the English word ‘master’, meaning ‘sir’ or ‘master’ and used as a title to
show respect for the person referred to. Although this loan is increasingly
used nowadays in satirical newspapers like L’Expression de Mamy Wata , its
presence in CPF dates from the 1960s. Source of loan: novel by Mongo Beti
(1974: 206), Mongo Beti (1974: 227) and the Cameroonian newspaper in
French L’Expression de Mamy Wata, N° 168 of 11 Jan. 2001, p.4.
matango: refers to palm wine or raphia wine. The use of this loan in CPF can be
traced back to the 1970s. Source of loan: oral daily usage.
mbanga soup : from the CPE word ‘mbanga’ (palm nuts) and the English word ‘soup’.
Refers to a type of soup prepared principally by using palm nut juice. Like
kpa coco, the use of mbanga soup can be traced from the early 1960s. It is
used mainly in oral contexts.
mbout: abbreviated from CPE mboutoukou, which means ‘a good for nothing person’
or ‘a weakling’. Mainly used by young people, this loan exists in CPF since
the 1970s. Source of loan: oral context in Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 306.
mini-minor: refers to a young woman who has not yet attained puberty; very young
prostitute. Present in CPF since the early 1960s, this loan is mainly used in
oral contexts. Source of loan: oral context in Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 313.
motorboy: (also written moto boy or motor-boy) from the English words ‘motor’ and
‘boy’ (a boy who works for motor cars or lorries). Refers to a lorry driver’s
assistant. This word exists in CPF since the 1960s. Source: oral context
recorded from popular radio program ‘Avis de recherche’ and from Equipe
IFA, 1983, p. 319.
mouf: get out; go away. This interjection is used in jovial contexts, especially among
young people. A lexical item very popular among students, its presence in
Cameroon French can be traced as far back as the late 1970s. Source of loan:
novel by Mongo Beti (1999: 101) and the Cameroonian newspaper in French
L’Expression de Mamy Wata, N° 167 of 4 Jan. 2001, p.11.
moukala : albino. Used in CPF since the 1960s, its usage is predominant in oral
moumou : deaf and dumb person. Present in CPF since the 1960s, the term is used
mainly in oral contexts.
ndjama ndjama : local variety of huckleberry which is cooked and eaten with corn
fufu. Its scientific name is solanium nigrium. The term is used in everyday
oral contexts, and its usage in Cameroon French can be traced back to the
early 1960s following the contact between Francophones and Anglophones.
ndjinja: (also written djindja) from the English word ‘ginger’, meaning ‘ginger’ or
‘difficult’. Predominantly used in oral contexts among city dwellers, its
presence in CPF can be traced to the early 1970s. Source of loan:
Cameroonian newspaper in French L’Expression de Mamy Wata , N° 175 of
March 2001, p. 5.
ngengerou : (also nguengerou ) derogatory name for albino. This loan has been
frequently used in CPF (oral contexts) since the 1960s. Source of loan: Equipe
IFA, 1983, p. 333.
ngomna : from the English word ‘governor’, meaning ‘administrator’ or ‘government’.
The word ngomna was first observed in CPF in the early 1980s. Source of
loan: short story by Abega (1982: 13).
ngrafi: from the English word ‘grassfield’. It is generally used to refer to someone
who comes from the North-West or West province. Although its presence in
CPE is relatively old (since the colonial period), its usage as a French loan
dates from the late 1980s.
njangsang : tropical fruit that is used as a condiment. The scientific name is
ricinodendron heudrolotii. The presence of this term in Cameroon French
dates from the 1960s. It is frequently used by market women in their
commercial transactions and also in the food industry in the absence of an
appropriate French equivalent.
njangui: from Basaa or Duala njangui, referring to a cooperative system of financial
contribution wherein members benefit in turns. The word njangui is used as a
synonym of the French word tontine, but less frequently used tha n the latter by
Cameroonian speakers of French. Its presence in CPF dates from the 1990s.
Source of lexical item: oral context in Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 329.
njoh: (also ndjo) from Basaa or Duala njoh , meaning ‘free of charge’. Speakers of
CPF have used the word njoh since the 1960s. Source of loan: oral context in
Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 329.
nkane: (also nkané) prostitute; brothel. Its presence in CPF dates from the 1960s in
the metropolitan areas of French-speaking Cameroon. Source of loan: oral
context in Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 335.
nyanga: from Ewondo or Basaa nyanga, meaning ‘elegant’. Speakers of CPF have
used the word nyanga since the 1960s. It is predominantly used in oral
contexts. Source of loan: Equipe IFA, 1983, p. 340.
nyangalement: from Ewondo or Basaa nyanga , meaning ‘in an elegant or seductive
manner’. To this root has been added the French suffix ‘-ment’ (equivalent to
the English ‘-ly’) used in the derivation of adverbs from adjectives. The word
nyangalement is a very recent creation in CPF. At moment, it is used
essentially by a cross-section of young urban speakers of CPF, and