Patterns of Codeswitching in Mixed Yoruba-English Interrogative Sentences

Volume 15
Issue 2
Ezekiel Tunde Bolaji, Omowunmi Mopelola Adebanjo, & Rifqat Opeyemi Sanni
This paper investigates the division of labour1 operative in naturally occurring bilingual discourse. It attempts to establish the grammar of intersentential codeswitching (ISC) in mixed Yoruba-English interrogative sentences. The paper seeks to find out what constitutes the asymmetry between the participating languages (Yoruba and English), as they supply important grammatical structures in order to produce a well-formed mixed Yoruba- English interrogative sentences. Asymmetry in the division of labour is observed in two ways: first between the type of morpheme involved in the switch (content or system morpheme, depending on whether they assign/ receive thematic roles or they do not), and second, how the morphemes are assigned roles and this depends on which language is the Matrix Language (ML) and which is the Embedded Language (EL). The paper observes that in Yoruba- English bilingual speech, when uniformity of structure is juxtaposed with asymmetry, structures of the ML are preferred according to the MLF principles (Myers-Scotton 1993; and Myers-Scotton 2011). The paper argues that even in this not-so-much investigated area of codeswitching in mixed Yoruba-English sentences, in the code switching structure, the ML is invariably Yoruba and as a consequence determines the permissible and non-permissible combinations for well-formed structures, contrary to what some scholars have claimed.

Key words: codeswitching, codemixing, interrogative sentences, Yoruba- English, Matrix Language Frame, inter-sentential codeswitching, intrasentential codeswitching, asymmetry, thematic roles, borrowing