The Syntax of Multi-Word Expressions in Yorulish Code-Mixing


  • M T Lamidi University of Ìbàdàn


Scholars have discussed Yorulish (Yorùbá–English) code-switching/mixing from the perspectives of sociolinguistics, contact linguistics and pragmatics, among others; but the syntax–semantics aspect has not enjoyed much scholarly scrutiny, if any. Multi-word expressions (MWEs) are characterised by non-compositionality as they comprise two or more words, which have a unique meaning not traceable to any of the combined words. This study examines the syntactic behaviour of MWEs in Yorulish code-switched grammar, with an eye to the meaning before and after code-switching/mixing. The adopted theoretical framework is a combination of Myers-Scotton’s Matrix Language Frame theory and Chomsky’s Transformational Generative Grammar. Data were purposively sampled from standard dictionaries and textbooks on English and Yorùbá languages, and code-switched/mixed with words from the alternate language. The MWEs selected are idioms (from English and Yorùbá); phrasal verbs, phrasal-prepositional verbs and prepositional verbs (from English); and splitting verbs and serial verb constructions (from Yorùbá). The study suggests that switching is allowed when components of MWEs are relatively free as in English prepositional verbs, but barred when they are fixed as in Yorùbá splitting verbs and idioms. Nevertheless, apart from idioms where both English and Yorùbá substrates resist switching, the other Yorùbá MWEs are more impervious to switching than do those of English origin, which suggests that Yorùbá is the base language.

Author Biography

M T Lamidi, University of Ìbàdàn

MT Lamidi is a Professor of English Language and Contact Linguistics at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. His research interests include Generative Grammar, Contact Linguistics, Contrastive Analysis, Applied Linguistics and Computer-Mediated Communication/Media Studies. He has published widely in books and learned journals.

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How to Cite

Lamidi, M. T. (2017). The Syntax of Multi-Word Expressions in Yorulish Code-Mixing. Ghana Journal of Linguistics, 6(2), 30-55. Retrieved from