n Language Matters : Studies in the Languages of Southern Africa - Embedded Language elements in Acholi / English codeswitching : what's going on?

Volume 36, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-5986



This article describes the main types of Embedded Language material that can appear within a bilingual clause. Specifically, Embedded Language elements in an Acholi / English codeswitching corpus are analysed. Three overall arguments are supported. First, when speakers employ Embedded Language material, the major motivation is that such material better expresses the semantics and pragmatics of the speaker's intentions than approximate Matrix Language counterparts. Second, in order to access the preferred Embedded Language material, speakers sometimes resort to compromise strategies. In the case of Acholi / English codeswitching, the most distinctive such strategy is to put English present participles into service as Acholi inflected verbs, with the entire construction often functioning as a reduced relative clause. That such a compromise strategy is possible supports the notion that languages are not citadels of rigid structures. Instead, as long as those features that are critical to a specific language are realised, morphosyntactic patterns can be modified. Third, even when Embedded Language content morphemes dominate in a clause, the basic morphosyntactic elements still come from the Matrix Language. This finding supports the Uniform Structure Principle.

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