Journal of
Languages and Culture

  • Abbreviation: J. Lang. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6540
  • DOI: 10.5897/JLC
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 132

Full Length Research Paper

Insertion strategies used with lone English verbs in otherwise Igbo utterances

Kelechukwu Ihemere
  • Kelechukwu Ihemere
  • Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies, University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 17 September 2018
  •  Accepted: 17 October 2018
  •  Published: 31 October 2018


Using examples of tape recorded conversational data from fifty educated adult Igbo-English bilinguals resident in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, this paper demonstrates that lone English verbs are typically inserted into otherwise Igbo utterances by means of Igbo verbal inflectional morphology. Other verbs are adjoined to a helping verb from Igbo, specifically involving an adapted form. Yet, a few English verbs are inserted into a position corresponding to an Igbo verb without any adaptations. To answer the question as to why the verbal inflectional morphology of Igbo rather than that of English should be used, we show that this is predicted by the Matrix Language Frame (MLF) model, according to which integration into the bound morphology of the base language is expected. Also, the paper identifies that the un-adapted English verbs occur in Igbo serial verb constructions (SVCs). The only type of structure where a full Igbo verb may occur without verbal morphology. Consequently, this paper concludes by arguing that the un-adapted English verbs in Igbo SVCs do not occur in codeswitching (CS) because of the activation of a ‘CS-specific’ compromise strategy, rather they, like the English verbs bearing Igbo verbal inflectional morphology occur in clause structure with restrictions imposed by the base language grammar.


Key words: Igbo, codeswitching, grammar, insertion, verbs, Matrix Language Frame model.