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Philosophische Fakultat
Synchrone Sprachwissenschaft
Dozentin: Marie-Christin Himmel, M.A.

SS 2016
Varieties of English
Referenten: Andre Schulz & Sebastian Katzsch

Kamtok Cameroon Pidgin English

1. Basic Information

Speakers normally refer to the variety as Pidgin or Kamtok (short for Cameroon
Kamtok is hardly standardized and there is huge variation in spelling, pronunciation
and lexicon
Communication with pidgin speakers from surrounding countries (e.g. Guinea, Kongo,
Nigeria) is usually possible
One fifth of the total population lives in the so-called English speaking provinces (see
also map page 2) in a survey 80 % of its rural population claimed to know and use
There are records of several hundred languages being spoken in Cameroon at the
moment Kamtok is preferably used for communication between members of
different language families, as well as in trade and business (Lingua Franca)

2. History

First contact with Europeans in 1472 Portuguese Fernando Gomes

Establishment of Portuguese-based pidgin for trading
At the beginning of the 17th century: British influence starts to grow all over West and
Central Africa (Royal African Company gains monopoly on trade for the region)
English Pidgin starts to develop and spread replaces former Portuguese pidgin
When slavery is abolished, many former slaves are resettled on the western coast of
Africa because they do not share one language, Pidgin functions as Lingua Franca
Missionaries and merchants keep coming to West Africa and intensify language
Short rule of Germany over Cameroon (aprox. 30 years) has close to no impact on
After World War II Cameroon is split between the British and the French as trust
territory English Pidgin was so well established that many speakers in French
territory kept using it
In this era developed the two broad varieties: Anglophone Pidgin English vs.
Francophone Pidgin English

Red: territory where Kamtok is predominantly used

3. Phonology

Very reduced vowel system

Monophtongs //, /e/, /a/, /u/, /o/ and //

Recent studies have found that there are also

diphthongs, but their phonemic status is still
being debated: /a/, /au/, /i/ and /ia/.

- Vowel Mergers
English Pronunciation Kamtok

StE Orthography

Merger in favor














Non-Reduction of Vowels
When English words are borrowed Cameroonians tend to ignore the original stress
patterns all syllables carry some sort of stress
Vowels in unstressed syllables are reduced in StE
/fiv/ vs. /fiva/ fever

Consonant Devoicing
/d, g, v, z/ in final position of words can be devoiced to /t, k, f, s/
Example: /bat/ for bad or /gut/ for good
Consonant devoicing is optional, except the following word starts with a voiceless
consonant: /bet pan/ bed pan or /bat ti/ bad thing

Cluster Simplification
Final consonant deletion is very frequent: /graun/, /han/, /lam/
Initial consonant clusters are often simplified through vowel epenthesis
/silip/ sleep or /sinek/ snake
Otherwise initial consonant deletion is rare: /tr/ strong

homorganic nasal + consonant combinations are frequent
e.g. /mb/, and /g/ in /mbaga/ palm-kernel
These are mainly borrowed from other Cameroonian/African languages such as
Duala or Mandankwe

4. Morphology and Syntax


Word-formation Processes:
Compounding (very productive)
bon-haus birth+house (ceremony to celebrate the birth of a child) or folo-bak
follow+behind (younger sister/brother)
sometimes new words are created by inverting the word order in English
koshot shortcut or taihet head tie
clando clandestine or asso French associ
o reduplication can change meaning
o Mi an ma sista get wan kain klos vs. Kainkain klos dem dey fo maket
o My sister and I have the same clothes vs. There are many kinds of clothes in
the market.
o Reduplication of kain expresses plural quality


Family members
papa, mami, pikin child, bik-papa, bik-mami, sista, broda
Social Life
chop haus restaurant (chop = to eat), krai-day funeral
chif head of village sevis waiter/waitress
Professional Life
ticha, hedmassa, washnait night watch kapinta carpenter
bikman fo wok boss
Du mi a du yu - Tit for tat
Man no run Never give up
Bele no get Sonday. The stomach (belly) never rests
Wuman weh yi di kuk wowo chop no laik trenja A poor cook doesnt like

Parts of speech

Plural form: Kamtok does not use inflexions in order to form a plural form (unlike
in Standard English), but uses the marker dem.
Example: Singular man in Standard English becomes man dem in its Kamtok
plural form
Abstract nouns: formed by explanatory noun phrases or relative clauses,
Example: imagination would be weti wey man de tink , literally what one thinks
Gender: expressed by adding the prefix man- and womanExample: male child -> man-pikin

Some pronouns:
Personal pronouns: A is I / yu is you / I is he,she,it / wi is we / wuna is
you (Plural) / Deh is they /
Relative pronouns: expressed by the words weh (who, whose, whom, which
) and se (that, which)
Example: A di tok fo Lum weh I di silip fo trenja rum -> I am talking to Lum who
sleeps in the guest room.

The verb to be is expressed in Kamtok by using fo bi. There are four forms: bi,
na, di and dey.
Bi: used with subjective -> Yu bi big man (You are an important personality)
Na: used to identify people and places -> Ma papa na ticha (My father is a teacher)
Di: used as an auxiliary vrb denoting progressive aspect -> A di shidon witi ma anty (I
m living with my aunt)
Dey: used as a locative copula -> Ma mami dey fo maket (My mother is in the market
Other verbs: get-> be / like -> laik / know -> sabi
Verb reduplication for intensity: The same verb is duplicated
Example: Fo shap monin, wuman dem di hori hori fo go fam ( Early in the morning,
women are always in a mad rush to go to the farm)
Repeated verbs with the object pronoun am: used to emphasize contrast
Example: No-oh, A no bit trowe am fo trowe am ; A bi drink am fo drink am (No, I
Did not throw it away; I drank it instead)

Have both attributive and predicative function such as in Standard English
Examples: Ma kombi get bik fut dem (My friend has big feet) -> attributive function
Ma kombi yi fut dem bik (My friends feet are big) -> predicative function

In Kamtok there are several adverbs like simol-simol (slowly/softly/gradually
), sofli-sofli (slowly/steadily/calmly), popo (really), kwik-kwik (quickly)
and ova (very/too much)
Example: Wuna di waka sofli-sofli (You are walking slowly)


Unlike Standard English, Kamtok does not distinguish between to, at, in, on
, about and from. Instead it uses fo subject to the context in order to express
the several prepositions.

The interjection and:

and is omitted in a combination of kam or go with another action verb
Example: Kam helep mi wash dis klos dem (Come and help me wash these clothes)

4.2 Verb tense and aspect


The past simple: formed by using the auxiliary bi + Verb

Example: Yeseday A bi go fo maket (Yesterday I went to the market)

The present perfect: marked by the auxiliary don + Verb

Example: I don si dokta (He/she has seen the doctor`)

Function as aspect (certain time relation to a situation): by forming the imperfect form
with bi+di+Verb
Example: Tif pipol dem bi di brok yi haus taim weh yi bi di slip
( Thieves were breaking into his house when he was sleeping)
The future: formed by adding the auxiliary go to the main verb
Example: Ngwing go go holide fo Limbe nex wik
(Ngwing will go on vacation to Limbe next week)

5. Sentence structure

The simple sentence: as in Standard English, it follows the SVO pattern

Example: Pikin di kray (The child is crying)

The negative marker not: placed in front of the verb phrase

Example: Pikin no di kray (*The child not is crying)

Interrogative pronouns: Kamtok interrogative pronouns are used in the same way as in
Standard English. Wetti (what), wusay (where), wishtaim (when) way (why) ,
ha (how)
Example: Ha yu dey? (How are you?)

The imperative: distinction between singular (direct command takes no subject

pronoun) and plural subject (direct command does take subject pronoun)
Examples: Wukop! (Wake up!)-> singular // Wuna wukop! (Wake up!) -> plural

Comparisons: words used to express comparison are pas (than), laik (as many as),
rich (as much as). Just like in Standard English, they can be combined with nouns,
adjectives, verbs and adverbs
Example (noun): A get klos dem pas you (I have more clothes than you)

Kortmann, Peter & Edgar W. Schneider, eds. 2004. Handbook of Varieties of English. 3. vols.
Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Print