Linguistic inequality in Cameroon: The case of advertising in Douala

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 37, issue 2, 2017 , pages: 137–147
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2017.1316934
Author(s): Paul Nepapleh NkamtaDepartment of English, Faculty of Human and Social Sciences, South Africa, Themba Lancelot NgwenyaDepartment of English, Faculty of Human and Social Sciences, South Africa


Despite the vast research conducted on linguistic hegemony, linguistic inequality, multilingualism and multiculturalism in Cameroon, very little has been done in advertising as it reflects language representation. Much of the research has focused on the linguistic hegemony and privileging of French and English in administration, politics and education. The 1996 Constitution of Cameroon proclaims English and French as the two official languages and, as far as indigenous languages are concerned, the Constitution only states that they will be ‘promoted’ and ‘protected’. But, in effect, indigenous languages are marginalised. One of the areas in which this marginalisation and inequity is evident is in advertising. Leaving out advertising in indigenous languages, among other things, denies many Cameroonian speakers access to information in their vernaculars, and opportunities to participate in higher level, formal discourses of advertising. This article is mainly qualitative and examines the current state of affairs regarding print advertising in the city of Douala in Cameroon. For data collection, advertisements captured through the aid of a digital camera as well as a semi-structured face-to-face interview were utilised. The findings revealed that to bring about equitable advertising in Douala, the skewed current tradition of advertising in dominant varieties of English and French should be transformed to include the use of major indigenous languages.

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