Language Choice in Christian Denominations in the Northwest Region of Cameroon


Abstract

The paper examines language practices in three dominant Christian denominations in the city of Bamenda, the headquarter of the Northwest Region. The data are drawn from a questionnaire and discussions with church leaders, elders and the faithful and the framework adopted is the structural-functional model. The analysis revealed that the services of these churches comprised a total of 33
elements and that several languages were used to realise these elements. Key church elements were realised in English, with switches to Pidgin English when there was a need to further explain certain points. Cameroonian indigenous languages were heard, but they were used in songs and were hardly used to realise key church elements. Regarding the factors militating for the selection of these languages, it was found that a language was used when it met at least one of the following four requirements. First, when the language has official status in a locality and second, when it is a major lingua franca, the latter helping to ease communication between literate and illiterate people. Third, a language was found to be used when its speakers were active choir members and lastly, when there were lively hymns in it.

Key words: Bamenda, Christian faith, language practice, language policy, language in religion, multilingualism

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