UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 10 (1998)

Functional heads, Cantonese phrase structure and Cantonese-English code-switching


This paper is concerned with the idea that the morpho-syntax of intra-sentential code- switching is strictly governed by the grammar of the matrix language/ML, whereas the embedded language/EL only contributes certain lexical elements within confines set by ML. A particular model embodying this idea - the Lemma Congruence model (Myers-Scotton and Jake 1995) - is discussed. The Lemma Congruence model states that an EL word can appear in code-switching provided its lemma (i.e. morpho-syntactic properties) is congruent with its ML equivalents. I argue that the Lemma Congruence model fails to explain recurrent patterns in Cantonese-English code-switching, where various English (i.e. EL) forms may appear despite their "incongruence" with their Cantonese (i.e. ML) counterparts. As an alternative, I suggest that code-switching may occur provided that the c-selection requirements of functional heads are satisfied. I argue that the latter approach - which I call the Functional Head Selection approach - is not only superior to the Lemma Congruence model, it also corroborates the idea that intra-sentential code-switching and monolingual sentences are governed by the same principles in Universal Grammar, a line of thought which has been explored most recently by MacSwan (1997) and Mahootian (1993).

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