We come from here

Pig for Pikin is son to KPAAM-CAM

We realize these project names may sound a wee too cryptic. As you may have discovered already, “Pig for Pikin” is a Cameroonian Pidgin English phrase meaning “pigs for children”. KPAAM-CAM, instead, is the acronym of “Key Pluridisciplinary Advances on African Multilingualism – CAMeroon”. It is a 3-year research project based at the University at Buffalo (NY) which is being carried out in partnership with three Cameroonian Universities: Yaounde 1, Buea, and CATUC Bamenda. You can find more on KPAAM-CAM here.

The main goals of KPAAM-CAM are:

  • to document multilingual practices (that is, how speakers of 2+ languages actually use these languages) in rural Cameroon;
  • to provide Cameroonian MA and PhD students in Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, and Anthropology with training in research best practices;
  • to contribute to a lively research environment in Cameroonian Universities;
  • to advance knowledge on the history of African languages and cultures.

The overarching goal of KPAAM-CAM is to foster Cameroonian young students to become the new generation of African leading scholars in the Social Sciences.

So why a community development project?

KPAAM-CAM has a secret dream: become a longitudinal study. “Longitudinal” here has nothing to do with geography but, rather, with time: it means a study lasting for long time, typically more than one generation. This would make a lot of sense since the behavior we target, i.e. multilingualism in local languages, is fast changing due to the spread of Pidgin English, the current lingua franca used by many Cameroonians (and, with only slight differences, also in Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone).

To be longitudinal, any given research needs to be sustainable, financially and otherwise. Amongst other aspects, one that deserves the utmost attention in this regard is keeping positive relationships: between researchers, between universities, between countries. And between researchers and target communities. Let’s focus on this last one for a moment.

IMG_0207Imagine you are one of the few speakers of a disappearing language, and you are poor. No less than twice a year a number of Cameroonian urbanites and a couple of whites visit your village, stay there for some weeks, hold interviews, do audio and video recordings, and hire few individuals as consultants, those who know English best or who are faster in approaching foreigners in an amicable way. How would you feel? If I were this person, I would not feel totally okay, even less so if visits (or perturbations) are not sporadic, but take place multiple times every year for, say, 25 years. I wouldn’t stand this without seeing any benefit for me or for my community as a whole.

It is for considerations of this kind that, since its beginning, KPAAM-CAM has included a community development component: a sizeable part of the funds meant to compensate linguistic and cultural consultants should go to benefit entire village communities. This is how Pig for Pikin was born: out of our search for the most promising idea to benefit whole communities. In fact, we are no longer concerned with individual villages but, rather, with the whole of Lower Fungom. Thirteen historically independent villages. Ambitious, no doubt, but essentially necessary.

But then, why pigs?