You are on page 1of 5


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Code-switching is a term in linguistics referring to using more than one language or
variety in conversation. Bilinguals, who can speak at least two languages, have the
ability to use elements of both languages when conversing with another bilingual.
Code-switching is the syntactically and phonologically appropriate use of multiple
Code-switching can occur between sentences (intersentential) or within a single
sentence (intrasentential).
Although some commentators have seen code-switching as reflecting a lack of
language ability, most contemporary scholars consider code-switching to be a normal
and natural product of interaction between the bilingual (or multilingual) speaker's
Code-switching can be distinguished from other language contact phenomena such as
loan translation (calques), borrowing, pidgins and creoles, and transfer or
There are different perspectives on code-switching. A major approach in
sociolinguistics focuses on the social motivations for switching, a line of inquiry
concentrating both on immediate discourse factors such as lexical need and the topic
and setting of the discussion, and on more distant factors such as speaker or group
identity, and relationship-building (solidarity). Code-switching may also be reflective
of the frequency with which an individual uses particular expressions from one or the
other language in his/her daily communications; thus, an expression from one
language may more readily come to mind than the equivalent expression in the other
A second perspective primarily concerns syntactic constraints on switching. This is a
line of inquiry that has postulated grammatical rules and specific syntactic boundaries
for where a switch may occur.
While code-switching had previously been investigated as a matter of peripheral
importance within the more narrow tradition of research on bilingualism, it has now
moved into a more general focus of interest for sociolinguists, psycholinguists and
general linguists.
Code-switching can be related to and indicative of group membership in particular
types of bilingual speech communities, such that the regularities of the alternating use
of two or more languages within one conversation may vary to a considerable degree
between speech communities. Intrasentential code-switching, where it occurs, may be
constrained by syntactic and morphosyntactic factors which may or may not be
universal in nature.[4]
People code-switch for a number of reasons.
• Code-switching a word or phrase from language-B into language-A can be
more convenient than waiting for one's mind to think of an appropriate
language-B word.
• Code-switching can help an ethnic minority community retain a sense of
cultural identity, in much the same way that slang is used to give a group of
people a sense of identity and belonging, and to differentiate themselves from
society at large.
• Code-switching is a common means to shift footing (Goffman 1979) or
contextualization (Gumperz 1982).
One of the more complete theories of code switching within sociolinguistics is the
Markedness Model, developed by Carol Myers-Scotton (1993). According to the
markedness model, language users are rational, and choose a language that marks
their rights and obligations relative to others in the conversational setting. When there
is no clear unmarked choice, code switching is used to explore possible choices.
Many sociolinguists object to the markedness model, and to the suggestion that
language choice is entirely rational (e.g. Auer 1998; Woolard 2004).
Competing sociolinguistic theories examine code-switching as language behavior,
often using discourse analysis, ethnography, or elements of both. Scholars such as
Monica Heller (1988, 1992, 1995), Ben Rampton (1995, 2007), and Joan Pujolar
(2004) describe the effects that the use of multiple language varieties have on class,
ethnicity, gender, or other identity positions.
Scholars in interactional linguistics and conversation analysis also study code-
switching as a means of structuring talk in interaction. Analysts such as Peter Auer
(1984) suggest that code-switching does not simply reflect social situations, but is a
means to create them. Other conversation analysts studying code-switching include Li
Wei (1998, 2005), Mark Sebba (2000; Sebba and Wooton 1998), and Jakob Cromdal
(2001, 2004).
[edit] Mechanics
Code-switching is distinct from pidgin, in which features of two languages are
combined. However, creole languages (which are very closely related to pidgins),
when in close contact with related standard languages (such as with Jamaican Creole
English or Guyanese Creole English), can exist in a continuum within which speakers
may code-switch along a basilect-mesolect-acrolect hierarchy depending on
context. Code-switching is also different from (but is often accompanied by)
spontaneous borrowing of words from another language, sometimes outfitted with the
inflections of the host language, sometimes not.
Linguists have made significant efforts to define the differences between borrowing
and code-switching.[5][6][7] Borrowing is generally said to occur within the lexicon,
while code-switching occurs at the level of syntax or utterance construction.
Code-switching within a sentence tends to occur more often at points where the
syntax of the two languages align; thus it is uncommon to switch from English to
French after an adjective and before a noun, because a French noun normally
"expects" its adjectives to follow it. It is, however, often the case that even unrelated
languages can be "aligned" at the boundary of a relative clause or other sentence sub-
Work in syntax and morphology has suggested several constraints on where language
alternation can occur. None of these suggestions are universally accepted, however,
and linguists have offered apparent counter-examples to each proposed constraint
(e.g. Bokamba 1989; Bhatt 1995).[8][9]
• The free-morpheme constraint states that switching cannot occur between
bound morphemes (Sankoff & Poplack 1981).[10]
• The equivalence constraint says that code-switching can only take place in
positions where "the order of any two sentence elements, one before and one
after the switch, is not excluded in either language" (Sankoff & Poplack
1981). For example, the sentence "I like you porque eres simpatico" is
allowed, since it obeys the rules for relative clause formation in both Spanish
and English.
• The closed-class constraint says that closed class items such as pronouns,
prepositons or conjunctions cannot be switched (Joshi 1985).[11]
• The Matrix Language Frame model (Myers-Scotton 1997, 2002) distinguishes
the roles of the participating languages.[12] The Matrix Language provides the
grammatical frame of bilingual clause. This model is complemented by the 4-
M model of morpheme classification (Myers-Scotton and Jake, 2000).[13]
• The functional head constraint says that code-switching cannot occur between
a functional head (such as a complementizer, determiner or inflection) and its
complement (a sentence, noun phrase or verb phrase) (Belazi et al. 1994).[14]
Note that some of these constraints make specific assumptions about the nature of
syntax, and are therefore controversial, especially among linguists who make different
theoretical assumptions.
Shana Poplack's approach to language mixing is relatively independent of choice of
syntactic theory, and use notions such as equivalence switching, nonce borrowing,
flagged switching and constituent insertion to categorize, based on quantitative
analysis of large corpora of bilingual conversation, the intrasentential mixing
phenomena characteristic of different bilingual speech communities. These patterns
can be rather different for even for two communities sharing the same language
Scholars use different names for various types of switching.
• Intersentential switching is switching outside the sentence or clause level,
for example at sentence or clause boundaries.
• Intra-sentential switching is switching within a sentence or clause.
• Tag-switching is switching a tag phrase or word from language B into
language A. (This is a common intra-sentential switch.)
• Intra-word switching is switching within a word itself, such as at a
morpheme boundary.
[edit] Examples
Zentella (1997)[16] offers the following example of code-switching from her work with
Spanish speakers in New York city. In this example, Marta and her younger sister
Lolita speak both Spanish and English with Zentella (ACZ) outside of their apartment
Lolita: Oh, I could stay with Ana?
Marta: - but you could ask papi and mami to see if you could come down.
Lolita: OK.
Marta: Ana, if I leave her here would you send her upstairs when you leave?
ACZ: I'll tell you exactly when I have to leave, at ten o'clock. Y son las nueve
y cuarto. ("And it's nine fifteen.")
Marta: Lolita, te voy a dejar con Ana. ("I'm going to leave you with Ana.")
Thank you, Ana.
Zentella explains that the children in this predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood
speak both English and Spanish. "Within the children's network, English
predominated but code switching from English to Spanish occurred once every three
minutes on average" (1997:32).
Kroskrity (2000:340-341)[17] gives the following example of code-switching by three
older male Arizona Tewa speakers, who are trilingual in Tewa, Hopi, and English.
The topic concerns the selection of a site for a new high school on the eastern Hopi
Speaker A: Tututqaykit qanaanawakna. [spoken in Hopi]
Speaker B: Wédít’ókánk’egena’adi imbí akhonidi. [spoken in Tewa]
Speaker C: Naembí eeyae nąeląemo díbít’ó’ámmí kąayį’į wédimu::di.
[spoken in Tewa]
English translation:
Speaker A: "Schools were not wanted." [spoken in Hopi]
Speaker B: "They didn't want a school on their land." [spoken in Tewa]
Speaker C: "It's better if our children go to school right here rather than far
away." [spoken in Tewa]
In this two-hour conversation, these men had been speaking primarily in Tewa.
However, when Speaker A makes a statement that considers the Hopi Reservation as a
whole, he switches to Hopi. This usage of the Hopi language when speaking of Hopi-
related issues is a conversational norm in the Arizona Tewa speech community.
Kroskrity makes the claim that these Arizona Tewa who identify both as Hopi and
Tewa use the different languages to help construct and maintain these discrete ethnic
identities linguistically.

Autres exemples [modifier]

« Et elle m’a plus au moins griffé le litso, si bien que j’ai critché :
vieille dégueulasse, vieux soumka à patates ! »

(Anthony Burgess, Orange mécanique)

"T’was brilling, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe..."

(« Il était reveneure ; les slictueux toves

sur l’allouinde gyraient et vriblaient... »)

(Lewis Carroll, Le Jabberwocky, traduction française de


« That's comme ça that you thank me

to have learned you english ?

Hé, that's not you qui m'as appris,

my grandfather was rosbif »

(Renaud, It is not because you are)

« Trop is te veel. »

(Paul Vanden Boeynants)