What are we trying to preserve? Diversity, change, and ideology at the edge of the Cameroonian Grassfields
Di Carlo, Pierpaolo
MetadataShow full item record
Discussions of endangered languages often frame language death as being associated with the loss of knowledge as embedded in a particular language. At the same time, it is also clear that the losses associated with language endangerment need not be restricted to individual language systems but can also involve the disappearance of distinctive language ecologies. This paper explores the language dynamics of the Lower Fungom region of Northwest Cameroon, which offers an extreme case of linguistic diversity within the already exceptionally diverse Cameroonian Grassfields, focusing on what we can learn by looking at the languages from an areal and ethnographically-informed perspective. In particular, key aspects of the local language ideologies will be explored in some detail, and it will be argued that in this area languages are used to symbolize relatively ephemeral political formations and, hence, should not be taken as reflections of deeply-rooted historical identities. This conclusion has significance both regarding how research projects in the area should be structured as well as for what it might mean to “preserve” the languages of a region which historically appears to have been characterized by frequent language loss and emergence conditioned by changes in territorial and political configurations.