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Code decline?

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  • macswan@asu.edu
    Daniel, I think it may happen that people switch from one language to another because they have limited ability in one. This could be true of a second language
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 30, 2000
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      I think it may happen that people switch from one language to another because
      they have limited ability in one. This could be true of a second language
      speaker, or a person who grew up bilingual but really has only a limited
      knowledge of the heritage language.

      But we need to be very careful in assuming that "not knowing the word for X"
      indicates a lack of proficiency in one language or the other. It is to be
      expected that bilinguals will have a greater mastery of vocabulary in some
      domains in one language and in other domains in another. There are lots of
      words I don't know in English -- my native language -- but I don't take this
      to mean that I lack proficiency in English. If I know a word in Spanish that I
      don't know in English, it likewise doesn't mean that I don't know English
      competently/proficiently. So using vocabulary as an index of language
      proficiency is very problematic. I discuss this a bit in chapter 2 of my 1999
      Garland book on codeswitching.

      So I'd suggest against using the term "code decline" or any similar phrase
      like this. One of the social/pragmatic motivations for codeswitching may
      indeed revolve around word choice; it's all codeswitching, regardless of what
      motivates it. The question of what motivates codeswitching is, of course, of
      great interest, but it's probably not a good idea to re-label the practice
      for each motivation.


      On Sun, 30 Apr 2000, Dan Villa wrote:

      > My name is Daniel Villa and I'm at New Mexico State University. I've
      > taught a 300 level (junior) class titled "Spanglish" for the second time
      > this semester (a course on issues in Spanish/English contact, both in this
      > region and in historic contexts). I have this question for list
      > participants:
      > Preface:
      > I realize that there is no firm consensus on what to call a major
      > component of what we study, be it code switching, code-switching,
      > codeswitching, code mixing, inter alia. However, in working with my
      > students, we can identify individuals who can maintain a monolingual
      > dialog in English (with no use of Spanish), one in Spanish (with no use of
      > English), or who can use both in a dialog due to social, affective, or
      > other motives (a fair percentage of students in the class have this
      > capability). So, in spite of the lack of a single phrase to describe this
      > linguistic capability, (and I've assigned this list to them as a resource
      > to further research this debate), for convenience's sake we've agreed upon
      > "code switching" as the way to refer to this phenomenon.
      > Question: there are those who do not have the linguistic skills that
      > correspond to this point of the bilingual continuum. A number of my
      > students say, "well, I code switch because I don't know the word, or can't
      > remember how to say that", or something to that effect. That is, they have
      > experienced some degree of language shift from Spanish to English, and
      > cannot carry out a dialog only in Spanish due to not having access to the
      > requisite competencies (syntactic, morphological, lexical, etc.) in that
      > code. We wish to differentiate this from "code switching". After looking
      > at the literature, and discussing this difference in class, we've come up
      > w/ the term "code decline" (decline < loss), an awkward phrase, at best.
      > (As in, "I code decline when I talk with my cousins from Zacatecas" -- not
      > very good at all.) So, (and here's the real question) what would be a
      > better/more appropriate term to differentiate (for undergraduate students)
      > the former from the latter? Any and all ideas are greatly appreciated (and
      > will be incorporated into the next iteration of the class!)
      > Sincerely,
      > Daniel
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