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code-switching and consent to record

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  • Rachel Reynolds
    Forgive me if I am repeating something someone else might ve already say (I just lost a few e-mails). In working with Nigerians, I have found a similar
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 12, 2002
      Forgive me if I am repeating something someone else might've already say (I
      just lost a few e-mails).

      In working with Nigerians, I have found a similar reluctance to be recorded for
      a number of interesting reasons about which I can only half-guess.
      Nonetheless, I managed to do some recording anyway by asking a titled close
      friend in my network if I could interview him and talk about having recorded
      him in public. This worked and many people consented to be interviewed.
      During interviews, I also collected code-switching data as people walked in and
      out of the room. I collected code-switching data also by walking around public
      events with the tape recorder on and visible. That the recorder was visible
      constituted an ethics of consent as far as I think is reasonable, and believe
      me, people asked about it! Furthermore, I think also recording in public in
      large groups gives people less anxiety and they do indeed break out into little
      groups and talk in such a way that one can get some great data.

      That people will ask about your project is an important opportunity to expand
      the base of people whom you might record. For example, after an initial
      blunder or two I didn't bother to explain any interest in code-switching
      because it makes people self-conscious and it invariably caused the few
      individuals I mentioned it to, to lament the "loss" of "pure" Igbo, Yoruba,
      etc. or to mention how "poor" their English was. Rather, I began to discuss my
      research in far more general terms, saying that I wanted to document how such a
      creative and funny and sophisticated group of talkers used language everyday as
      Nigerians and as ethnics. That went over well and also aided interest in my

      Women were harder to obtain consent to record, even though I am also female. I
      remain unsure why and I also believe that when I did get women's speech, it was
      in instances when they entirely forgot I had a tape-recorder. This of course
      means that I got performances in the Hymesian sense and I got angry
      discussions; those performances have code-switching to be sure, but do not lend
      well to variation analysis.

      But Anastase, although I got somewhat different material than I had set out
      for, it was all very interesting, very unusual and very good to work with.
      Good luck. Your work sounds very important and I know you will find a way to
      carry it forward.


      Rachel R. Reynolds
      Assistant Professor
      Department of Culture and Communication
      Drexel University
      3141 Chestnut Street (Bldg 47)
      Philadelphia, PA 19104

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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