Code-mixing, language variation, and linguistic theory: Evidence from Bantu languages

Eyamba G Bokamba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study presents an analysis of code-mixing in two Bantu languages: Lingala and Swahili, which interact, respectively, with French and English to form urban varieties of the former languages. The questions considered include (a) the descriptive and explanatory adequacy of syntactic constraints on code-mixing (CM); (b) the generality of such constraints; and (c) the probable internal organization of the grammar of the bilingual/ multilingual code-mixer. The first part of the study provides a critical review of the literature on CM and shows that almost all the major syntactic constraints proposed thus far are invalid cross-linguistically, and thereby lacking in explanatory value. The second part of the paper offers an analysis of CM on the Lingala-French and Kiswahili-English varieties to demonstrate the complexity of the phenomenon and to further substantiate the inadequqcy of current syntactic findings on CM. On the basis of the facts examined here and elsewhere in the literature, a model for the bilingual code-mixer's grammar is proposed and its implications for linguistic theory are discussed from synchronic and diachronic perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-62
Number of pages42
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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