“You will come when?”The pragmatics of certain questions in Cameroon English

| January 8, 2014

April 2007. Volume 2 Issue 1

“You will come when?”
The pragmatics of certain questions in Cameroon English

Daniel Nkemleke,
Technische Universität Chemnitz, Germany

Bio Data:
Daniel A. Nkemleke, Ph.D., is senior lecturer in English Language and Linguistics in the Department of English in Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) of the University of Yaoundé I, Cameroon. He has over 12 years of experience in ELT and has published in a number of refereed journals including World Englishes, English World-Wide, Nordic Journal for African Studies and Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics etc. He teaches the following courses in ENS: TEFL, academic writing and functional English syntax. His research interest includes text (corpus) linguistics and writing and since 1992 he has been involved in a project to build a written and spoken corpus of Cameroonian English. He is presently a guest researcher in the Department of English of the Technische Universität Chemnitz (Germany), having been awarded a 12-month research fellowship by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to further develop his Cameroonian corpus.

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This contribution discusses how some Cameroonians perform the speech act of “asking” in informal contexts. Data used for the study is derived from transcripts of taped conversations and recordings from personal encounters. In all, 160 examples of “questions” (of the type “you will come when?”) that could not fit any of the categories of questions in native English as outlined in Quirk et al (1985) are analyzed. In a cross-linguistic perspective, I demonstrate that the “you will come when-type” questions reflect similarities found in Cameroonian home languages of the Bantu origin, spoken by all interlocutors from whom the data was obtained. Furthermore, the paper contends that interplay of the syntax of these home languages and English may be responsible for the questions of the type stated above. The paper concludes that speech act research of this nature may guide teachers to design teaching materials that specifically address the nature of spoken interaction in interpersonal communication.

Key Words: Pragmatics, questions, informal contexts, Cameroon English, pedagogic relevance

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Category: 2007