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Kelechukwu Ihemere

Associate Professor

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Personal profile

Personal profile

I am an Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics and a Senior Fellow of the United Kingdom Higher Education Academy. I was educated at Newcastle University where I studied for an MA in English Language and Linguistics and a PhD in Linguistics. Before joining Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, I taught at Newcastle University, Northumbria University, Birmingham City University, and the University of Westminster. I also spent several years in Moscow working as an EFL teacher. My research interests are in the sociolinguistics of multilingualism, language variation and change, and world varieties of English. I welcome prospective doctoral applications on topics related to my research interests.

Research interests

My research interests are in the sociolinguistics of multilingualism, language variation and change, and world varieties of English.

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 December 2022, my journal article on ‘Igbo Root-Outward Vowel Harmony in Feature Spreading and Stem-Affixed Form Faithfulness Proposals’ was published in The International Journal of Communication and Linguistic Studies. This article explores the viability of using feature spreading and stem-affixed form faithfulness approaches to account for the attested patterns in Igbo root-outward vowel harmony. The analysis shows that the former undergenerates the attested patterns and makes incorrect predictions about the direction of the harmonic feature for Igbo verbs with affixes at either end of the root vowel, whereas the stem-affixed form faithfulness approach is shown to provide a more parsimonious account of the attested patterns following the morphological structure of Igbo verb roots and their affixes. This leads to the conclusion that the superiority of the stem-affixed form faithfulness proposal to the feature spreading account lies in the fact that the former captures straightforwardly the principal empirical generalization about the evident asymmetry existing between Igbo verb roots and affixes forbidding root vowels from alternating to agree with affix vowels even if this leads to incomplete harmony.

In February 2017, I undertook fieldwork in Mauritius for the project: ‘A Sociolinguistic Study of Language Use, Attitudes and Shift in Mauritius’. This study focused 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. 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 represented quite a significant change in the language use pattern within this community of speakers in such a short space of time. Therefore, this study sought to explore the factors motivating the reported ongoing change in the typical language use patterns and the concomitant impact on issues of language vitality, identity, attitudes and the education of the younger members of the community.

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.


February 2023 to present, Associate Professor, XJTLU

September 2007 – January 2023, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language, University of Westminster, UK

January 2007 - July 2007, Visiting Lecturer, Northumbria University, UK

September 2006 – January 2007, Visiting Lecturer, Birmingham City University, UK

September 2002 – July 2006, Part-time Lecturer, Newcastle University, UK

September 1997 – August 2000, English as a Foreign Language Teacher, International House, Moscow-Russia

Awards and honours

Winner of Newcastle University International Postgraduate Scholarship for my doctorate degree in linguistics: 2002-2006.

Education/Academic qualification

Senior Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy (SFHEA)

MA in English Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University, UK - 2001

PhD in Linguistics, Newcastle University, UK - 2006

Person Types

  • Staff


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