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re: Language Alternation and Code-Switching

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  • Adam Blaxter Paliwala
    ... Establshing definitions for any widely used terminology is always difficult. I think one of the key reasons why descriptive categories for behaviour, such
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 19, 2003
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      Establshing definitions for any widely used terminology is always difficult. I
      think one of the key reasons why descriptive categories for behaviour, such as
      our topic 'code-switching' or 'code switching', are often applied to quite
      different groups or phenomena, and with attention by researchers to differing
      aspects of the environment, or context, in which such phenomena occur is that
      different data sets call attention to different areas of interest.

      'Code switching' research incorporates studies which approach mixed language
      behaviour from the social and pragmatic perspective, looking perhaps at the
      distribution and functions of language varieties (codes) in a particular
      community and investigating what particular roles and meanings these varieties
      and patterns of their use encode in local discourse. 'Code switching' research
      also incorporates studies which approach mixed language behaviour from a
      structural perspective, investigating formal relations between varieties.

      The division of topic between these subfields may seem to justify closer
      distinctions in the terminology we use to describe such research, but I feel
      that maintaining the use of a single cover-term is practical and useful.
      Research into mixed language behaviour is now in a phase where different
      paradigms are becoming established and starting to cross-fertilize. Under the
      rubric of 'code-switching' we have seen research into patterns of multilingual
      and multilectal expression flourish across the fields of linguistics.
      Admittedly, formal and functional studies have rarely gone hand in hand. Myers-

      Scotton, for example, chose to publish her social and structural analyses or
      mixed language behaviour, and specifically code-switching, in East Africa as
      separate works in 1993. However, if we choose to pick separate terms for
      sepaprate areas of research we are in danger of unravelling the network of
      associations which are flourishing in this field.

      While some 'code-switching' research focuses on pragmatics and some on
      structure there is shared ground in the apparant distinction between
      linguistic expression which calls upon the resources of a single 'code' and
      that which utilizes the resources of different systems.

      On the question of language varieties and dialects it is this issue of
      systemacity which is most relevant. Where we can define a discrete and
      systematic 'code' we have a variety which can be distinguished from
      other 'codes' where they are used discretely. All code-switching research
      selects as its topic behaviour where different 'code' systems are used
      together.

      I would resist presenting 'Language Alternation' as a more appropriate super-
      category to 'code-switching' on the grounds that to use the word
      and 'language' to define an area of research which naturally distinguishes
      between more discrete subjects as 'languages' and more similar subjects
      as 'dialects' within the same language in the process of establishing similar
      patterns in their combination is to limit ourselves unduly.
      Similarly, 'alternation' does not seem an appropriate super-definition for
      phenomena which can include insertional patterns and congruent
      grammars. 'Language Alternation' seems an ideal title for a particular
      category of 'code-switching' research, just as 'dialect alternation'
      or 'language insertion' might be.

      The more neutral term 'code-switching' remains valuable to because it allows
      for researchers into, for example, dialect mixing at the phonological level to
      network their theories and results with, for example, researchers into the
      expressive function of mutlilingual discourse in constructing particular
      identities. As a super-category, 'code' is neutral with respect to the kind of
      system under study, and 'switching' does capture the perceptual salience of
      those moments when we notice language varieties in contact, while still
      remaining neutral as to whether the general patterns the 'switching' takes are
      alternational, or insertional, congruent, etc.

      Personally, I like to think of my broad field of research interest as
      being 'Mixed Language Behaviour', a term I have used in my comments above,
      without being particular about whether I am considering languages, or language
      varieties, or dialects, or exactly what kind of behaviour is under the
      microscope. Under this category I consider a range of differing subjects, such
      as second language acquisition, pidgin formation and decreolisation, and code-
      switching as seperate subfields resulting from their psycholinguistic, social
      developmental, and pragmatic and strucural focus. Each of these established
      fields differ in the paradigms they follow. I resist a definition of 'code-
      switching' as being limited to dialects or varieties within a single system on
      the grounds that the term 'code' seems to have a more pwerful scope than that.
      What is clear, however, is that for 'code-switching' research to fulfill its
      potential, individual practitioners need to think for themselves about the
      paradigm that they are a part of, and how it relates to the philosohpy and
      practices of other researchers in the field. Celso's category of 'Langauge
      Alternation' I would still consider a part of 'code-switching' research, as I
      consider 'language' a type of 'code' and 'alternation' a type or 'switching',
      but I think that he is right to make a distinction for his own work as he
      establishes a stronger paradigm for his research.

      I think that the established super-category encourages shared thinking, and
      this should not be diminished. However, we should all be aware that 'code-
      switching' research is diverse and comewhat fragmented. We are all in the
      process of defining our own paradigms. Giving them names is part of a process
      which helps us find our way.

      2 kina blo mi tasol
      Peace and love
      Adam.

      Quoting "cdnilep <Chad.Nilep@...>" <Chad.Nilep@...>:

      > --- In code-switching@yahoogroups.com, Celso Alvarez Cáccamo
      > <lxalvarz@u...> wrote:
      >
      > >I personally present the view that we
      > > should revisit and reframe the "code-switching" notion, and I
      > propose to
      > > distinguish between, precisely, language alternation (LA) and
      > > code-switching (CS)
      >
      > I find this a facinating, and potentially very useful distinction.
      > However, I have a few questions or issues relating to your
      > description of the problem.
      >
      > First, you assert, "[C]ode-switching theoretically involves the
      > alternation of systems which are not distinct 'languages', but
      > dialects, registers, etc." It is not my understanding that code-
      > switching necessarily refers to dialects or registers of a single
      > language. While seminal work such as Blom and Gumperz (1972)
      > sometimes deals with alternation among dialects, Gumperz (1982) goes
      > to some trouble to differentiate code-switching from diglossia
      > (Ferguson 1964). Did you mean to say that CS can involve switching
      > either between distinct languages OR between varieties within a
      > language? (At any rate, it has always been difficult to
      > define 'language' in a way that consistently differentiates sister
      > languages from, for example, dialects.)
      >
      > As you point out, your view of language alternation versus code-
      > switching is not the orthodox view. Not all linguists (indeed,
      > perhaps only an minority) see code-switching as involving
      > recontextualization "by definition." There has been a good deal of
      > work, for example, by Minimalist syntacticians or by phonologists
      > which is labled "code-switching" research, but has very little to do
      > context, or indeed meaning.
      >
      > That said, within the areas of linguistics which I personally
      > study (pragmatics, linguistic anthropology, etc.) the distinction
      > you draw between language alternation and "code-switching" per se is
      > a useful one. A problem arises, perhaps, with the terminology used.
      > You are using "code-switching" in a different, more
      > specialized way than, say, formal linguists who use the same term to
      > describe any language alternation. I would be interested to hear
      > what others on this list think about the distinction Celso makes,
      > and whether your own definitions of code-switching are similarly
      > precise. Does it seem useful (or even possible) to reframe the
      > notion of code-switching as Celso suggests, or is the term too
      > broadly used by linguists in various subfields?
      > --
      > Chad D. Nilep
      > University of Colorado at Boulder
      > http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~nilep/
      >
      >
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      >
      >
      >


      --
      Adam Blaxter Paliwala MA
      University of Sydney
      Department of Linguistics
      Australia NSW 2006
      <adam.paliwala@...>
      +61 4 1489 3136

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      --
      Adam Blaxter Paliwala MA
      University of Sydney
      Department of Linguistics
      Australia NSW 2006
      <adam.paliwala@...>
      +61 4 1489 3136

      -------------------------------------------------
      This mail sent through IMP at ArtsIT: http://admin.arts.usyd.edu.au/horde/imp/
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