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In linguistics, code-switching or language alternation occurs when a speaker alternates between two or more languages, or language varieties, in the context of a single conversation. Multilinguals, speakers of more than one language, sometimes use elements of multiple languages when conversing with each other. Thus, code-switching is the use of more than one linguistic variety in a manner consistent with the syntax and phonology of each variety.

Use

In the 1940s and the 1950s, many scholars considered code-switching to be a substandard use of language.[1] Since the 1980s, however, most scholars have come to regard it as a normal, natural product of bilingual and multilingual language use.[2][3]

The term "code-switching" is also used outside the field of linguistics. Some scholars of literature use the term to describe literary styles that include elements from more than one language, as in novels by Chinese-American, Anglo-Indian, or Latino writers.[4] In popular usage, code-switching is sometimes used to refer to relatively stable informal mixtures of two languages, such as Spanglish, Taglish, or Hinglish.[5] Both in popular usage and in sociolinguistic study, the name code-switching is sometimes used to refer to switching among dialects, styles or registers.[6] This form of switching is practiced, for example, by speakers of African American Vernacular English as they move from less formal to more formal settings.[7] Such shifts, when performed by public figures such as politicians, are sometimes criticized as signalling inauthenticity or insincerity.[8]

Distinguishing features

Code-switching is distinct from other language contact phenomena, such as borrowing, pidgins and creoles, and loan translation (calques). Borrowing affects the lexicon, the words that make up a language, while code-switching takes place in individual utterances.[9][10][11] Speakers form and establish a pidgin language when two or more speakers who do not speak a common language form an intermediate, third language. On the other hand, speakers practice code-switching when they are each fluent in both languages. Code mixing is a thematically related term, but the usage of the terms code-switching and code-mixing varies. Some scholars use either term to denote the same practice, while others apply code-mixing to denote the formal linguistic properties of language-contact phenomena and code-switching to denote the actual, spoken usages by multilingual persons.[12][13][14]

Code-switching and language transfer

There is much debate in the field of linguistics regarding the distinction between code-switching and language transfer.[15] According to Jeanine Treffers-Daller, “considering CS (code-switching) and language transfer as similar phenomena is helpful if one wants to create a theory that is as parsimonious as possible, and therefore it is worth attempting to aim for such a unified approach, unless there is compelling evidence that this is not possible.” [15]

Not all linguists agree on whether they should be considered similar phenomena. In some cases, linguists refer to the benefits and disadvantages of language transfer as two separate phenomena, i.e., language transference and language interference, respectively.[16] In such views, these two kinds of language transfer, along with code-switching can, comprise what is known as cross-linguistic influence.[16]

Part of the debate may be solved by simply clarifying some key definitions. Evidently, linguists sometimes use different terminology to refer to the same phenomenon, which can make it confusing to distinguish between two phenomena from one another in investigative discourse. For instance, psycholinguists frequently make use of the term language switching in reference to the “controlled and willed switching” to another language. However, this term is hardly used by linguists working on natural code-switching.[15]

Linguists adopted that code-switching involves switching between languages. But when a multilingual speaker fluent in the langu

In the 1940s and the 1950s, many scholars considered code-switching to be a substandard use of language.[1] Since the 1980s, however, most scholars have come to regard it as a normal, natural product of bilingual and multilingual language use.[2][3]

The term "code-switching" is also used outside the field of linguistics. Some scholars of literature use the term to describe literary styles that include elements from more than one language, as in novels by Chinese-American, Anglo-Indian, or Latino writers.[4] In popular usage, code-switching is sometimes used to refer to relatively stable informal mixtures of two languages, such as Spanglish, Taglish, or Hinglish.[5] Both in popular usage and in sociolinguistic study, the name code-switching is sometimes used to refer to switching among dialects, styles or registers.[6] This form of switching is practiced, for example, by speakers of African American Vernacular English as they move from less formal to more formal settings.[7] Such shifts, when performed by public figures such as politicians, are sometimes criticized as signalling inauthenticity or insincerity.[8]

Distinguishing features

Code-switching is distinct from other language contact phenomena, such as borrowing, pidgins and creoles, and loan translation (calques). Borrowing affects the lexicon, the words that make up a language, while code-switching takes place in individual utterances.[9][10][11] Speakers form and establish a pidgin language when two or more speakers who do not speak a common language form an intermediate, third language. On the other hand, speakers practice code-switching when they are each fluent in both languages. Code mixing is a thematically related term, but the usage of the terms code-switching and code-mixing varies. Some scholars use either term to denote the same practice, while others apply code-mixing to denote the formal linguistic properties of language-contact phenomena and code-switching to denote the actual, spoken usages by multilingual persons.[12][13][14]

Code-switching and language transfer

There is much debate in the field of linguistics regarding the distinction between code-switching and language transfer.[15] According to Jeanine Treffers-Daller, “considering CS (code-switching) and language transfer as similar phenomena is helpful if one wants to create a theory that is as parsimonious as possible, and therefore it is worth attempting to aim for such a unified approach, unless there is compelling evidence that this is not possible.” [15]

Not all linguists agree on whether they should be considered similar phenomena. In some cases, linguists refer to the benefits and disadvantages of language transfer as two separate phenomena, i.e., language transference and language interference, respectively.[16] In such views, these two kinds of language transfer, along with code-switching can, comprise what is known as cross-linguistic influence.[4] In popular usage, code-switching is sometimes used to refer to relatively stable informal mixtures of two languages, such as Spanglish, Taglish, or Hinglish.[5] Both in popular usage and in sociolinguistic study, the name code-switching is sometimes used to refer to switching among dialects, styles or registers.[6] This form of switching is practiced, for example, by speakers of African American Vernacular English as they move from less formal to more formal settings.[7] Such shifts, when performed by public figures such as politicians, are sometimes criticized as signalling inauthenticity or insincerity.[8]

Code-switching is distinct from other language contact phenomena, such as borrowing, pidgins and creoles, and loan translation (calques). Borrowing affects the lexicon, the words that make up a language, while code-switching takes place in individual utterances.[9][10][11] Speakers form and establish a pidgin language when two or more speakers who do not speak a common language form an intermediate, third language. On the other hand, speakers practice code-switching when they are each fluent in both languages. Code mixing is a thematically related term, but the usage of the terms code-switching and code-mixing varies. Some scholars use either term to denote the same practice, while others apply code-mixing to denote the formal linguistic properties of language-contact phenomena and code-switching to denote the actual, spoken usages by multilingual persons.[12][13][14]

Code-switching and language transfer

Social theories

Code-switching relates to, and sometimes indexes social-group membership in bilingual and multilingual communities. Some sociolinguists describe the relationships between code-switching behaviours and class, ethnicity, and other social positions.[27] In addition, scholars in interactional linguistics and conversation analysis have studied code-switching as a means of structuring speech in interaction.[28][29][30] Some discourse analysts, including conversation analyst Peter Auer, suggest that code-switching does not simply reflect social situations, but that it is a means to create social situations.[31][32][33]

Markedness model

The Markedness model, developed by Carol Myers-Scotton, is one of the mo

The Markedness model, developed by Carol Myers-Scotton, is one of the more complete theories of code-switching motivations. It posits that language users are rational and choose to speak a language that clearly marks their rights and obligations, relative to other speakers, in the conversation and its setting.[34] When there is no clear, unmarked language choice, speakers practice code-switching to explore possible language choices. Many sociolinguists, however, object to the Markedness Model's postulation that language-choice is entirely rational.[35][36]

Sequential analysis

Scholars of conversation analysis such as Peter Auer and Li Wei argue that the soc

Scholars of conversation analysis such as Peter Auer and Li Wei argue that the social motivation behind code-switching lies in the way code-switching is structured and managed in conversational interaction; in other words, the question of why code-switching occurs cannot be answered without first addressing the question of how it occurs. Using conversation analysis (CA), these scholars focus their attention on the sequential implications of code-switching. That is, whatever language a speaker chooses to use for a conversational turn, or part of a turn, impacts the subsequent choices of language by the speaker as well as the hearer. Rather than focusing on the social values inherent in the languages the speaker chooses ("brought-along meaning"), the analysis concentrates on the meaning that the act of code-switching itself creates ("brought-about meaning").[28][35]

Communication accommodation theory