MOTIVATIONS OF CODE-SWITCHING
Code switching is currently considered one of the main subjects of study in linguistics. This can be shown by the fact that within the last decade most of the major conferences on linguistics had at least one paper on the subject. One of the topics within the subject that has been of interest to sociolinguists is on the communicative intention of this phenomenon. The researches in this particular topic make a scientific attempt to understand and clarify why people engage in code switching (Wardhaugh, 2009, p. 85). Why two or more people that understand two or more languages would choose to communicate in language A and then change to language B and then go back to A. These sociolinguists study code switching based on language usage patterns and also how language correlates socially. Among the earliest dated study on code switching, is one done by John Gumperz and Jan Blom in 1972. The two researchers evaluated code switching between Norwegian dialects. The study of code switching amongst dialects was however not a popular one as most sociolinguists were aware that switching is more distinct in languages than in dialects. This is because dialects are often inter-related in terms of vocabulary and various phonetics. This initial research appealed to sociolinguists in that code switching had been presented more as a skilled type of performance rather than an aberrant one or as a foreign culture. This study by Gumperz and Blom was also significant in understanding the motivations behind code switching in that it established two heuristic constructs: metaphorical and situational switching. By the end of their 1972 study, the two researchers had succeeded in not only explaining some of the motivations underlying code switching amongst Norwegian dialects, but also in showing that code switching was a researchable topic of study that had known variables and was a new area of knowledge in linguistics that required explanation.
Prior to the study by Gumperz and Blom, code switching was considered as merely an interference linguistic phenomenon that came about only when a person was unable to continue a conversation in the language they were using. This way the speaker would use another language, seen as interference or as an aspect of persons that were imperfect bilinguals, to finish off the conversation. Previous studies by sociolinguists such as Uriel Weinreich had dismissed the existence of code switching. Gumperz and Blom hence were able to show that code switching did not necessarily mean that a person was not fluent in language A for them to switch to language B. This prototype study had succeeded in showing that code switching was not motivated by lack of fluency; it was not a ‘performance error’.
Code Switching as a Result of Grammatical Constraints
It is interesting how Weinreich (1968) ignored the existence of code switching by saying that the change of language in conversations should only be done when topics change or there is any other change in speech (p. 73). According to such studies, code switching was mainly motivated by a change of speech and was only a practice for those that had mastered bi- and multilingualism. This study can however be disputed based on the argument that according to Weinreich, people who used two or more languages in their conversation before a change in speech comes up are imperfect bi- and multi-lingual. However, it is now common knowledge that a person can use two or mare languages anywhere in a conversation and still be a fluent speaker in either of the languages.
In 1980, a sociolinguist by the name of Poplack conducted a study on code switching in which she concluded that code switching was motivated by either an equivalence constraint or a free morpheme one. Her study had focused on code switching between Spanish and English. The results of this study were supported from the linear equivalence approach by other studies conducted by Lipski in 1978 and Pfaff in 1979. In as much as the results of her study were later disputed, Poplack’s study was the first attempt to establish the explanatory principles behind code switching. Previous studies had focused on defining the phenomenon and also differentiating it from other phenomenon such as code borrowing and shifting. As per Poplack’s study, the equivalence constraint explained code switching as occurring at points in a conversation where juxtaposition of elements from two languages does not go against any of the language’s syntactic rule. On the other hand, constraint of free morpheme explained that code switching tends to be done consequent to any constituent in conversation as long as this constituent in discourse is not a bound morpheme. The equivalence constraint predicted that code switching happens where the two languages in use map onto one another in terms of their surface structures. The other constraint on the other had predicted that code switching was limited to boundaries between words. This is because according to the constraint, code switching was not allowed between a bound morpheme and a lexeme unless there was a phonological integration of the item to the base language.
Poplack’s attempt to validate the two constraints universally was opposed by different studies from various languages. Some of the studies that gave counter-evidence to Poplack’s findings were Davies and Bentahila’s study in 1983 on Moroccan/ French Corpus, and Berk (1986) on Spanish/ Hebrew. The languages studied in the above mentioned studies component of meaning defined by an independent morpheme that was then integrated into the stem.
In my opinion however, these two aspects of language are also dependent on socio-psychological factors. The attitude in which people develop towards a certain language has an impact in this. One will tend to switch to language considered to be superior or prestigious over the other. In these regard, the new language is a motivating factor. The desire to perceive what is foreign is also an accelerating factor considered as lack of loyalty to culture. On the other hand, lack of some terms in the native language may also influence code-switching when one intends to communicate. Interesting to note is that some sociolinguists such as Lipski had previously argued that the only motivation identifiable for code-switching was mental confusion by the speaker. This argument shows that some of these linguists still perceived code-switching as an incorrect use of language in a conversation. However, I am of the opinion that continued code-switching despite the criticism has led to the breakthroughs achieved in code switching, such as code-switching can be done by a person completely fluent in both languages involved in the switch.
SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE AND ITS MOTIVATION ON CODE SWITCHING
Depending on the influence, there are four major types of code-switch. Intra-sentential switching is the first and most common, and this occurs where a speaker changes words from different languages in the same sentence. Inter-sentential code-switching is the second type and this is where a speaker changes from one language to another in two different sentences. Tag switching is the third one, and this is where a speaker inserts a tag-phrase from one language to the one he is using for communication. Intra-word is the last type of code-switching and in this type; the speaker switches languages in one word, especially the long ones, a case referred to as morphemes.
Different societies hold different opinions on code-switching. In conservative societies for example, code-switching is highly discouraged, since people see it as ‘contamination’ of a language. However in the current times, code-switching has been encouraged basically because it eases communication and enhances understanding. This has therefore been encouraged and practiced especially by mass media. Secondly, code-switching has been seen to enhance proficiency in a foreign language, and for this reason it has been applied a lot especially in informal settings. Lastly, it is important to note that there are some particular things that exist in one community and not the other, and in such a case code-switching is unavoidable when using a different language. For these reasons, code-switching has been encouraged in various fields such as education, communication and in working institutions, which are main components of the society in which we live.
Many people especially in the contemporary society in which we live view code-switching as an art and also a stylistic skill in which a person can effectively tune from one language to another when speaking to the same audience without strain. This is because they express their mastery in both languages, and backed up by the society’s motivation to use these two languages, code-switching has become a common phenomenon in different societies across the world today.
Other than the society’s code-switching encouragement, various other factors have either actively or passively motivated it. For example, lexical cohesion is one of the major contributors and motivators of code-switching. This is where the use of multilingual comes into a conversation, for example in courts of law whereby the involved persons are from two different lingual backgrounds. Other cases in lexical conversations includes multilingual conversations with interpreters
Art in the society is another code-switching motivator. This is a situation whereby a person inserts language items such as nouns, verbs etc from a foreign language in to the language in use at that particular time, since they fit into the other language through sentence construction and likeness in sound. Coherence takes place when the words (which are mostly nouns) are compatible with the language in use, and this is referred to as lingual/lexical coherence. In most cases, this is used especially in art work such as poetry, spoken word or even music, and this is another factor that encourages code-switching in conversations.
As seen from the above reasons, it is clear that the society has embraced code-switch because as much as it may have negative effects on languages especially as a result of lingual interference, it is still unavoidable because people from different lingual background interact on daily basis.
ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE AND ITS MOTIVATION IN CODE-SWITCHING
Anthropology, being the study of mankind and how human beings behave and react towards different stimuli and different aspects that affect their lives, tries to explain how people live their life in the societies both as an individual person as well as an intellectual being who interacts with and communicates with other people. Communication is an important aspect in the people’s way of life and as a result of people from different and diverse backgrounds interacts with one another; there is the definite and expected exchange of cultures, dialects, linguistics and values that results from interacting. In this case, we will concentrate more on the exchange of lingual values such as communication.
As people interact and communicate, borrowing of words from one language to another either consciously or unconsciously will most often than not result, and for example, conscious code-switching may result when a person lacks the correct term to use in a particular situation. A speaker may also unconsciously code switch from one language to the other when they are speaking a language different from one’s own. Due to interference from their first language, code-switching will therefore result.
Anthropology has encouraged exchange of values and cultures from one society to the other, and with these comes along different languages. This is one of the factors that have consequently contributed to exchange of certain words from one language to the other, for example borrowing of words such as “also” from English to German. The exchange of culture has however been discouraged by some anthropologists and lingual professors, since it has been seen to be one of the factors that contaminate a culture.
Conversation analysis can be defined as study of talking during interaction. Hence this theory is relevant to code switching in that it makes an attempt to understand why phenomenon such as this occurs during conversation. Linguists using this theory propagate the idea that people taking part in a conversation are social actors who take part in linguistic activity after logical deductions that are evident in their consequent verbal actions. This theory states that since conversations are all about people speaking in turns, an analysis of any component of these conversations cannot be done oblivious of the whole discourse. This means that code-switching cannot be understood by only analyzing the motivation from all those engaged in the conversation and not only the speaker doing the code-switching. Sequential organization of conversation is also a key concept discussed in this theory and hence using the conversation analysis to study code-switching requires an understanding of the significance of where in a conversation the code-switching occurs. Auer (1984), shows this as he argues that code switching can best be understood using a sequential analysis.
This theory helps in showing that code-switching is motivated by logical considerations of the speaker. The conversation analysis model also shows that speakers choose where in their conversation they will switch languages to achieve a desired effect. This shows that code switching is done with the speaker seeking to achieve a particular effect in their discourse. However, this model cannot be used alone to analyze code-switching as it overlooks the fact that at times code-switching is not done to achieve any effect. These are the times when the speaker is motivated by tradition. For example in places where it is common to switch between languages in a discourse, the speaker may switch just because they are used to doing so and not particularly to achieve any effect. But aside from that, the conversation analysis model is effective in showing the motivations behind code-switching.
COMMUNICATION ACCOMMODATION THEORY
This theory was formulated by Howard Giles in 1971. The theory’s objective is to explain the various cognitive influences responsible for the linguistic phenomenon of code switching. According to the theory code switching occurs as people engaged in a conversation try to minimize or emphasize the social differences existent between or amongst them. Giles argues that in an attempt to minimize the social difference between the speaker and the interlocutor, the speaker will converge their speech to be similar to that of the interlocutor. Whereas when the speaker wishes to emphasize the difference they diverge their speech to that of the interlocutor.
This theory by Giles presents two motivations of code switching. One is for the speaker to show how they are different from the interlocutor. This is done by divergent speech where the speaker uses linguistic features that are found in their own language grouping.
The Communication Accommodation Theory has four components which include the accommodative orientation of the communicator, future intentions and evaluation, the immediate situation, and the socio-historical context. These components are central to the motivations of code-switching presented by this theory. This theory suggests that code-switching is motivated by the desire of the communicator to get approval of the listener socially, to uphold a positive social image, and to improve the efficiency of the communication.
This theory helps in showing that code-switching is not just a phenomenon happening by chance but rather a practice that the speaker chooses to engage in. The motivators presented by this theory correlate to other sociological arguments such as the acculturation concept. This is where a person makes all attempts to live their life in a way similar to people higher than them in terms of social class. This is what is seen in code-switching as per this theory; people try to code-switch so as to fit social classes. The opposite is also true where people in higher social classes use code-switching to show the difference between them and the people in lower social classes.
When diverging their speech, the communicator attempts to uphold a positive social image. The extent of the divergence is dependent on how strong the communicator perceives to be the social forces. In my opinion, this theory goes beyond explaining the social factors behind code-switching but rather creates a framework for use in understanding this linguistic phenomenon.
Social Situation, Setting, and Social Event
Also seen in the study by Gumperz and Blom were these three motivations for code switching though they were not emphasized as much as metaphorical and situational switching. Social situation is the gathering of speakers at a particular place and time for a specific activity. This motivator hence influences code switching as people use languages interchangeably based on where they are and who they are with. The setting dealt with the motivations the physical environment has on code switching. The physical environment described above is the one where the speakers operate their social life. Event on the other hand is similar in its motivation to social situation only that event was used to differentiate each social situation. For example, discourse in a football match, in a classroom, or in a restaurant. However, sociolinguists such as Auer (1984), code switching as an embedding of meaning in a bilingual discourse is independent of the social context and meaning of the community (p. 132). This counter-argument is disputed by the works of Tabouret and LePage (1985) that show that each individual formulates for themselves their linguistic behavior to fit in with the groups that the individual interacts with in their activities (p. 181). Also noted in this study is that this formulation of linguistic behavior that is responsible for code switching may also be motivated by a desire by the individual to be distinguished from a group. For example, a young person may switch to the official language from the local one while talking with fellow young people in an attempt to stand out amongst other young people and be heard. The opposite may also be seen where the young person switches to slang or another language identified with the young people while having a conversation with adults so as to be distinguishable as a young person.
Fishman (1972) however argued against this attempt to link code switching and individual choice. According to this research code switching was as a result of influences resulting from the activity being done and not specifically the individual (p. 437). In actual sense, the two sides of the argument are true as far as they do not attempt to discredit each other. This is because the argument presented by Touret and LePage (1985) was based on a micro-level analysis of code switching while Fishman’s was on a macro-level analysis. This is because it is true that code switching is as a result of individual choices that are at most times influenced by the social situation and activity being undertaken. It is the patterns evidenced and continuously practiced during various activities and social situations that give rise to choices that an individual can make during code switching. This is why it is true to say that there exists an inter-relationship among the activity, social situation, and individual choice. Also, based on the fact that the macro-level perspective taken by Fishman (1972) only gives rise to an association between activities and language norms while in the micro-level perspective is where the actual code switching occurs, it would be valid to say that happenings in the macro-level of code switching give rise to those in the micro-level.
Myer-Scotton proposed the Markedness model in her attempt to show the motivations underlying code switching. In this model, she established three maxims that were inter-related and which she considered useful in understanding this phenomenon, code switching. It is important to note that Myers-Scotton’s study was based on code switching between Swahili and English in Kenya. The three maxims identified in this model are ‘the unmarked choice’, ‘the marked choice maxim’, and ‘the exploratory choice maxim’. The first maxim required a person to change from an unmarked language to another based on situational changes that may arise during the discourse (Myers-Scotton, 1999, p. 81). This maxim seemed to support Fishman’s research that has been discussed previously in this term paper. The second maxim is applicable where the speaker opts to negotiate their obligations and rights so as to achieve goals such as creation of an aesthetic effect. The third maxim deals with the occurrence of an unmarked code that does not adhere to a community’s norms and which no direct link can be established with situational factors. This third maxim is applicable mostly in situations where there is a clash of roles of the speaker and the community’s norms.
This model was however disputed by sociolinguists arguing for the conversation analysis model. One of the greatest constraints identified in the Markedness Model was its adoption of the study by Fishman. Blommaert and Meeuwis (1994) believed that the Markedness Model had simply shown speakers as following or not following norms set by the community which made it static. The model was also accused not incorporating diachronic change in language that happens within a community’s history.
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