Sunday, July 12, 2009

“Ayuk: Do You Speak Those African Dialects Too”?

Many Americans think that African languages are dialects, and even some Africans do think so. Whenever I say in Cameroon we speak 286 languages in Cameroon people quickly correct me with: “you mean dialects”. Including dialects one could have about 1000. I just want to throw some light. According to the language map by ethnologue.com you may be baffled to see all these languages. However let me just name a few like Kenyang, Bakossi, Pidgin, Douala , Ewondo, Bulu, Fang, Bali , Bulu, Bassa, Bakweri, Ngemba, Aghem, Balondo and Mungaaka, yabassi, Ejagham are a few. To better treat this topic I will define both terms to make the dichotomy clearer. Also feel free to visit the work the guys from SIL are doing in Cameroon translating the Bible : I will not use only African languages for my illustrations because you do not know them. Therefore please be patient with me as a juggle with the different languages.

Definitions:
language:
"Language is succinctly defined in our Glossary as a "human system of communication that uses arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols." But frankly, language is far too complicated, intriguing, and mysterious to be adequately explained by a brief definition"

Dialect:
"A variety of a language (specifically, often a spoken variety) that is characteristic of a particular area, community or group, often with relatively minor differences in vocabulary, style, spelling and pronunciation".

Application
Let me take five languages that I flirt a bit with to do my application. I will not go deeper since we lack time.

Let’s start with English Language.

English
English is a formalized system of communication, but its dialects are as follows:
A) British B) American C) South African D) New Zealander  E) Malaysian  F) Zimbabwean etc.. Thus, a dialect is a variety in a main language.
The major differences or varieties between American and British English are at the level of orthography,ortheopy, orthodoxy and idioms.

Kenyang: my mother’s tongue or First Language. Sorry for those who cannot speak their native languages!
The major difference is at the level of the Affricate and fricative sounds
The main language is Kenyang, but the two main dialects are upper Bayang (Keyangah fai) and Central Bayang (kenyang) . With upper Bayang,  the combination of the plosive /g/ and the glottal h -gh in a word like a /ghareh/ (who?) gives you a word like /gareh/; thereby, silencing the h while with Central Bayang, the who has the same strength like /hareh/ meaning the g is silent rather. There is a great usage of affricate sounds /ts/ though they are not English sounds.

French
The main language is French
The various dialects are A) French, B) Cameroonian   C) Canadian D) Ivorian E) Haitian and, F) Monacan. There are difference at all the language levels of orthography, syntax, ortheopy and semantics. Ivorians don’t use articles while French and Cameroonians will consider the non usage as wrong grammar.

Pidgin
Pidgin has its varieties in Kumba Pidgin, Nigerian Pidgin, Australian Pidgin, Lapiro Pidgin (langua for don man). So you see Pidgin is a langue and not a dialect.

Spanish:
There are Castillian (Spanish Spanish) and Latin American Spanish. Even within Latin American, you have Mexican Spanish and Honduran Spanish. Mexicans use /platicar/ while other places use /hablar/ for to talk.

Therefore, the above languages are not dialects. By calling them dialects we relegate them to a position inferior to English or French.

Until then, please be an informed speaker.

Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk




“Bonyfish beware because the same net that caught the jawless fish, caught the cartilaginous fish” (Hamilton Ayuk).
Beware earthly paradise seekers because there is a serpent in every paradise"(Hamilton Ayuk).

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