Dr Kelechukwu Ihemere

Dr Kelechukwu Ihemere

I am a Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics. I was educated at Newcastle University where I studied for an MA in English Language and Linguistics and a PhD in Linguistics. Before joining the University of Westminster, in September 2007, I had previously taught at Newcastle University, Northumbria University and Birmingham City University. I also spent several years in Russia working as an EFL teacher.

My research interests are in sociolinguistics and the sociology of language, language variation and change, bilingualism, and world Englishes.  

I have investigated and presented a systematic and coherent synchronic account of the language choice patterns by Ikwerre-Nigerian Pidgin English (NPE) bilinguals in Port Harcourt City, using a variety of methods including ethnographic participant observation, face-to-face language use interviews and matched guise experiments. The findings of this study have been published as monographs and journal articles: Ihemere, K U (2006) A basic description and analytic treatment of noun clauses in Nigerian Pidgin in the Nordic Journal of African Studies Vol 15(3); Ihemere, K U (2007) A Tri-Generational Study of Language Choice and Shift in Port Harcourt; Ihemere, K U (2009) Revisiting the Issue of Language in Education Policy and Mother Tongue Medium of Instruction in Nigeria in the International Journal of the Humanities Vol 7(3); Ihemere, K U (2010) Some Code-Switching Practices in Port Harcourt: Code-Switching as a Linguistic Resource in the International Journal of the Humanities Vol 8(1).

In 2016, my research monograph on Codeswitching in Igbo-English Bilingualism: A Matrix Language Frame Account was published by Bloomsbury Academic. This study evaluates the Matrix Language Frame model of codeswitching with Igbo-English data, concluding that the data can indeed be considered a classic case of codeswitching, in that a Matrix Language can be clearly identified in bilingual clauses. It establishes this through both qualitative and quantitative analyses that make use of the typological contrasts between Igbo and English to uncover supportive evidence for the Matrix Language Frame model and its associated three principles: the Matrix Language Principle, the Asymmetry Principle, and the Uniform Structure Principle. The study goes one step further by using spectrograms and the analysis of vowel harmony between English free morphemes and Igbo bound affixes to demonstrate that two phonologies can co-exist in codeswitching and that codeswitching forms are essentially pronounced with a phonology that does not entirely resemble that of the Matrix Language variety. It finds that the same language production mechanisms as detailed under the Matrix Language Frame model and its associated three principles underlie both single and multi-word codeswitching. The study underlines the importance of the assumptions underpinning the Matrix Language Principle: (1) that language production is modular; (2) that lexical structure is both complex and abstract; and (3) that languages in contact divide responsibilities in what they may contribute toward lexical structure during the production of mixed constituents. Crucially, the monograph reports that Igbo-English bilinguals can always sustain ready access to their mother tongue mental lexicon during online speech production and thus Igbo-English may duly be described as a ‘classic’ case of codeswitching. 

In February 2017, I received funding from the Departmental Research Management Group to undertake fieldwork in Mauritius for the project: A Sociolinguistic Study of Language Use, Attitudes and Shift in Mauritius. This study focuses on presenting a systematic and coherent synchronic account of the language use predilections of the Bhojpuri people of Mauritius. The Bhojpuri are part of the Indo-Mauritian ethnic group, who make up 68% of the Mauritian population. However, according to the 2011 Mauritius census, there was a decrease in the use of Bhojpuri at home; it was spoken by 5.3% of the population compared to 12.1% in 2000. This represents quite a significant change in the language use pattern within this community of speakers in such a short space of time. Therefore, the proposed study, the first of its kind on the island, will seek to uncover the factors motivating this reported ongoing change in the typical language use pattern and the concomitant impact on issues of language vitality, identity, attitudes and the education of the younger members of the community. 

  • English Language and Linguistics
  • Homelands