Thomas Devlin gives ROLLS talk on tone in CPE

For our first ROLLS talk of 2017, we are delighted to welcome back Thomas Devlin to talk about his work on tone in Cameroon Pidgin English. The data promises to be fascinating, and we hope to see you there (1pm, Wed 08/02, Jubilee G36)!

Investigating tone in a spoken corpus of Cameroon Pidgin English
Thomas Devlin (University of Derby), Sarah FitzGerald (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), Melanie Green (University of Sussex)

Cameroon Pidgin English (CPE) is an expanded pidgin/creole spoken by around 11 million people, often alongside the prestige languages French and English and a variety of indigenous languages (Lewis et al. 2016). In advance of the publication of the first grammar of CPE (Ayafor and Green 2017), this paper explores the use of tone in a sample of 15 CPE speakers from the larger corpus, balanced for sex, age, geographic locations, professions, educational and linguistic backgrounds.  
Although previous studies of tone in West African Pidgin Englishes (WAPE) are patchy in terms of their descriptions and have shown inconsistencies in terms of findings, it is possible to hypothesise some sort of partial tone system in CPE based on this existing literature. Using acoustic analysis to investigate tone in a selection of monosyllabic, disyllabic and multisyllabic words, spanning different parts of speech, the initial findings from this research largely corroborate the literature suggesting that CPE is a tone language with 3 levels (low, mid and high). The results show some difference in tone between lexical and grammatical words and a tendency to distinguish lexical pairs, in line with other WAPEs.

Ayafor, Miriam and Melanie Green (in press for 2017). Cameroon Pidgin English [London Oriental and African Language Library 20]. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2016. Ethnologue: languages of the world. 19th edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: