Colonial Letters and the Contact of Knowledges

Gratien G. Atindogbe

Linguistics and African Languages

University of Buea

Research Focus

Theoretical Linguistics (phonology, morphology), descriptive linguistics, language planning, sociolinguistics, documentation of endangered languages, historical linguistics (Bantu), tonology, Cameroon Pidgin English, intercultural communication, French sociolinguistics, Cameroon Sign Language (CSL), Postcolonial linguistics, Digital Humanities, Terminology.

Selected Publications

Summary of research topic in the CL&CK project

Speech acts, communication and conflicts in colonial letters

Speech acts, i.e., apologising, greeting, requesting, complaining, inviting, complimenting, bullying, refusing, etc. are at the center of human interaction, whatever way or genre we chose to communicate. During the 19th-20th Century British colonialism of Africa, because of the principles of indirect administration adopted by the British colonial government, communication with the traditional rulers and traditional political institutions was extensively done in letters. Considering the evidence that speaking is “doing something” with language or “performing an action” through language, my interest in the colonial letters is to examine the ways in which meanings are created in such a context of dominance, political control, and economic exploitation. The colonial letters offer a case of real-life interactions between people of different cultures. Studying them is delving into some cross-cultural communication strategies that underpinned conversations between settlers and citizens in this multicultural setting, and understanding how conflicts were created, mediated and resolved using language.