- Has compiled the corpus of Cameroon English project since 1992
Brief history of involvement: My involvement in the corpus project of Cameroon English dates back as from 1992, when I started working on the project as a research student. I participated in a two workshops in 1992 intended to train local researchers in Cameroon on corpus compilation, facilitated by Professor Antoinette Renouf (University of Birmingham), who at the time was senior academic adviser to the project. My idea to do PhD research on the modal verbs, using data from this corpus, was a result of my participation in this project. When formal links ended between Yaoundé and Birmingham in 1994, I maintained links with Professor Renouf, whose contribution was instrumental in the completion of the thesis in 2003.
- Has compiled a corpus of academic texts in Cameroon English, which has been used as a basis for the book Exploring Academic Writing in Cameroon English, published by CUVILLIER VERLAG, Göttingen 2011
The corpus comprises four main text groups as follow: First, essays collected during the 2006, 2008 and 2009 academic years from students of the Department of English of the Higher Teacher Training College; second, end-of-course postgraduate dissertations in English and literary studies for 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 academic years in the same department. The third category of texts contains abstracts of two international conferences which were held in Yaoundé in 2005 and 2006.
End-of-course dissertations: The end-of-course dissertations (equivalent to Masters level work) were written by students of the Department of English of the Higher Teacher Training College as part of the requirement for graduation. These students were from four of the five state universities in Cameroon, and they were admitted into the school after taking a competitive entrance examination. The dissertation topics range from general linguistics and applied linguistics to an exploration of regional literatures: African, American, English, and Commonwealth. The average length of a dissertation is 25 to 30,000 words, consisting of three main sections: introduction, theory/literature review and analysis/conclusion. In the introductory chapters, candidates articulate the research problem and state the methodology. In the theory and literature survey sections, they basically write about the theory or theories they intend to use, and review literature, if available. The analysis and conclusion section is where the students actually engage in personal writing and argumentation. My experience is that the theory and/or literature review section is generally not the work of the students. At this level, most of them simply copy or adapt existing texts. For this reason, these sections were excluded from the database. Dedications, acknowledgements, and appendices were also excluded from the count. The dissertation process generally takes four semesters at the Higher Teacher Training College. When students come into the school in the first year, they choose a dissertation advisor, who generally works with them to choose a topic, or approves the one they may already have. The students then go ahead to present a plan of work which the two agree upon. The writing process generally begins after this, and it is completed in the second year. Before the dissertation is approved for a public defence, the advisor must write a pre-defence report (Chapter 6) in which he/she acknowledges having supervised the work, identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the study, confirms that the dissertation meets basic academic standards, as far as the conduct of research and academic writing is concerned, and suggests a jury.
Students’ essays: The average length of each essay included in this corpus is about 1,000 words. Two sets of essays are involved here. The first set is the essay component of the corpus of Cameroon English that were written between 1990 and 1994 by students of the department of English of the University of Yaounde (cf. Nkemleke 2008a). The second set (about 75 per cent) is long essays that I collected from students at the end of the Academic Writing course I taught at the Higher Teacher Training College over the course of 4 years. It should be noted that most of the students pursuing a professional teaching Diploma in this school are MA and PhD students in university faculties across the country. Some of them are also practicing teachers who graduated from the first cycle of the school, taught English and literature for many years in secondary and high school, and came back for further training in the second cycle. The Academic Writing course usually consists of two main components. First, we discuss theoretical literature on topics such as modality, metadiscourse, hedging, coherence and cohesion and second, we engage in hands-on text analyses using publications from peer-reviewed journals and book chapters dealing with the issues mentioned above. Part of the reason for doing this has been to encourage students to read the literature on academic English by exposing them to the kind of writing that is practiced in academic publications, in the hope that they learn to model their writing after those examples. After these exercises, they are then asked to submit lengthy essays to obtain a continuous assessment mark, which qualifies them to take an examination in that course at the end of the semester. These essays are included in the corpus for this book.
Conference abstracts: As mentioned earlier, the conference abstracts were those submitted for two international conferences which were held in 2005 and 2006 in Yaounde. The themes of the two conferences were (1) “Language, Literature and Identity” and (2) “Language, Literature and Education”. Abstracts were received from people who had a university affiliation, and were actively involved in research in the areas of linguistics and literary studies. The second category of abstracts came from MA and PhD students. Most of the abstracts in this latter category were presentations of the students’ on-going research. The abstracts went through a normal review process, and those that met the requirements of the conference in terms of topic relevance were accepted for presentation at the conference.