The Syntax of English Verbs in Intra-Sentential Code-Switching: A Comparison of Three English-African Language Pairs


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Languages and Linguistics


Some scholars have proposed that verbs are inserted into derivations as fully-inflected elements, and that the features of the inflectional elements that attach to the verbs are checked in the Functional Projections. Another position assumes a typological difference between languages with respect to the configuration of verbal affixes in the lexicon. The fact that African second-language speakers of English speak first languages that are typologically different from one another makes it possible to compare code-mixing in different language pairs involving English and an African language. Patterns of English verbal morphology observed in such code-mixing reveal that English verbs are treated in systematically different ways by bilinguals with different first-language backgrounds. This study suggests that the inflectional properties of the speakers’ first languages affect the treatment of English verbs in code-mixing environments, and points to a typological distinction between languages in the way verbal affixes are configured in the lexicon.