The sociocultural constraints on code switching in Lower Fungom and the implications on theories of convergence and divergence

Presented at the 4th Symposium on West African Languages, University of Napoli “L’Orientale”, September 21-23 2022. Author: Rachel A. Ojong Diba


There exists a profound disdain for code switching, the alternating use of two or more codes in Lower Fungom, a community with intense linguistic diversity and high levels of contact in the North west region of Cameroon. Lower Fungom’s thirteen tightly knit villages with each claiming to have its own language observe traditional belief patterns which keeps code switching between local codes almost out of the linguistic ecology of the place. Phenomena of this kind stress the importance in local language ideologies, of keeping codes separate and, therefore, may conceivably be considered as favouring the development of patterns of non-convergence (be it through stability or divergence) among languages. The aim of this study is twofold; to provide a quantitative analysis of the natural speeches of three uncharacteristically multilingual individuals of Lower Fungom in a bid to investigate the occurrence of code switching in these recorded speeches. Secondly, this study aims at discussing the sociocultural constrains on code switching in this rural society and the implications of the aversion of this linguistic phenomenon on the linguistic ecology of the region with regards to theories of convergence and divergence. This sociolinguistic study that uses both quantitative and qualitative methods is a contribution on literature on contact-induced divergence and convergence which is still unpopular especially with African languages in rural settings.

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