Authors: Fonkeu Ngencho, Bridget
Title: Sociolinguistic identity (re)construction in the German diaspora: the case of the use of address forms and kinship terms by Anglophone Cameroonian immigrants
Language (ISO): en
Abstract: This research investigates how Cameroonian Anglophone immigrants use language within the socio-historical, socio-economic and socio-cultural setting of the German diasporic space to (re)construct different identities. Address forms and kinship terms serve as salient linguistic variables which, conditioned and guided by the social variables of ethnicity, gender, age and contexts, help these postcolonial, multilingual immigrants to (re)construct multiple and intersecting dimensions of identities. This research reveals how the subjects in question manipulate the languages in their repertoire to convey and negotiate their position within the new environment in which they find themselves. A Cameroonian’s choice of address is therefore seen as an index of social meaning (De Fina, 2016). Data for this research is based on recorded and transcribed live discussions, semi structured interviews and participant observations. The mixed qualitative and quantitative analysis reveals that Cameroonian immigrants (re)construct identities of social interdependency as part of their self-concept, which is common in most collectivist cultures (De Fina, 2016:171). In the Cameroonian community of practice, social interactions are binary: there is a need to conform to societal sociolinguistic expectation with other Cameroonians and at the same time there is a need to get into successful communication with Germans and other immigrants. This duality of purpose plays a great role in the transformation of the Cameroonian identities through social interaction with others (Gupta, 1992). They therefore re-enact their past by conforming to societal and cultural norms through the use of auntie/uncle, ndap, teknonyms and manyi/tanyi. At the same time, they need in-group affiliations with Nigerians, Ghanaians, and Germans. They also need to be integrated within the German sociocultural, sociolinguistic and socioeconomic system. This influences the choices of address forms (oga, O boy, Charlie, Schatz, Herr/Frau). Anglophone Cameroonian immigrants in Germany set up friendship networks with other Cameroonians and people from different countries. For instance, the sociolinguistic implication of contact of Cameroon English (CamE) and Cameroon Pidgin English (CamPE) with German is strengthened by the fact that within this transnational locality, the German language is key to academic, professional and daily success. There is also contact between these two Cameroonian Englishes and the Nigerian, Ghanaian and Sierra Leonean varieties. The diversity of sociolinguistic and sociocultural contacts suggests the mobility and dynamism of identities. The blurring, fluidity, elasticity and hybridity of identities (re)constructed by the Anglophone Cameroonian immigrants in the German diaspora are vehicled by address forms and kinship terms which, in this research, have been shown to be rich resources for networking and solidarity, in addition to building in- and out-group relationships (belonging and not belonging). For instance, addressing Germans and other non-Africans does not follow the same tradition. Germancontacts are addressed by name irrespective of the age difference between interlocutors but Cameroonian, Nigerian and Ghanaians have to be spoken to by choosing terms based on age difference between interlocutors. For the first generation Anglophone immigrants, there is a greater sense of cultural attachment and an attempt to portray their background. These immigrants do not wish to lose all that they left behind in terms of socio-culture. There is the need to reconstruct the past communities and relationships. However, the freedom of the diasporic space has led to a level of super-diversity and transnationalism (De Fina, 2016) as we see that the younger generation of speakers (generation 1.5) are slowly resisting the use of some features (e.g. sister/brother) as prefixes of respect attached to names of older interlocutors both in the family and in the community. In a nutshell, the fact that Anglophone Cameroonian immigrants find themselves in a German context with yet another language and culture complicates the linguistic scenario and adds to the hybridity and fluidity of the constructed identities. As these postcolonial subjects use elements of language to compound and negotiate in-/out-group relationships, they consciously or unconsciously construct multiple identities during their migratory stay (Brubake &Cooper, 2000; Boroditsky, 2009). The immigrants face a series of conflicting needs: integration, sociocultural and socioeconomic empowerment and recognition among other immigrant groups.
Subject Headings: Sociolinguistics
Subject Headings (RSWK): Soziolinguistik
Kulturelle Identität
Kamerunischer Einwanderer
Issue Date: 2019
Appears in Collections:Linguistik des Englischen (Mehrsprachigkeit)

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