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Abstract Uchechukwu

A Cognitive Grammar Insight into the Subject-Object Switching Verbs of the Igbo Language.

Igbo verbs have a [verb + NP/PP] structure that is similar to the English phrasal verb or the German Funktionsverbgefüge. A sub-group of the Igbo verbs, identified as subject-object switching (SOS) verbs (Uwalaka 1988), has the characteristic feature of being used to form two contrasting constructions. An illustrative example is the verbal complex -kwà ụ́kwárà ‘(to) cough’:


Úchè nà ákwà ụ́kwárà

Uche AUX verb cough

Sub. Obj.

[lit. Uche is coughing cough]

‘Uche is coughing.’


ụ́kwárà nà ákwà Úchè

cough AUX verb Uche

Subj. Obj

[lit. Cough is coughing Uche]

‘Uche has a cough.’

The subject of the first construction, Úchè, becomes the object of the second construction, but with an attendant semantic difference.

This paper examines the conceptualization associated with the SOS verbs in the light of Cognitive Grammar’s viewpoint and alternate construal (Langacker 1987, 2000), and highlights the relevance of such an approach to the categorization of Igbo verbs.