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1. Introduction
Changing from one language to another in the course of conversation may
seem extraordinary to most of us, but for some people it belongs to their everyday
life. In fact, one in three of the worlds population routinely uses two or more
languages for work, family and leisure. (Li Wei 5) Using one language at work and
another at home can be challenging already, but using two different languages in
one conversation requires a high language proficiency in both languages. This
fascinating phenomenon is called code-switching and will be the topic of my paper.

All in all, I will examine how code-switching is defined, were we can find it
and approach the matter from a sociolinguistic perspective. Therefore I will analyse
several studies of known linguists who explored code-switching in different
countries. The studies that Im investigating are Social meaning in linguistic
structure: code-switching in Norway by Jan-Petter Blom and John J. Gumperz,
Sometimes Ill start a sentence in Spanish y termino en espaol: toward a typology
of code-switching by Shana Poplack and Yoruba/English Conversational CodeSwitching as a Conversational Strategy by Ayoade A. Amuda. Although they deal
with different languages in contact, namely Norwegian standard & dialect, English &
Spanish and English & Yoruba, they all show the same form of societal bilingualism
(Appel and Muysken 10). To compare the studies I will present the language
situations shortly and than describe the similarities and differences in the findings.
Finally, I will condense the results and consequently demonstrate how social
meanings and code switching are connected.

2. Defining Code-Switching
Code-switching is a societal phenomenon, which was described by many
different linguists. This entails that there are various interpretations of codeswitching. To ensure that we start from a common ground I will explain now how Ill
use the term code-switching in this term paper.

I agree completely with Bullock who describes code-switching as the ability

on the part of bilinguals to alternate effortlessly between their two
languages. (Bullock and Toribio 1) This means it is exclusive to bilinguals (ibid. 2)
Monolinguals also adapt their language to suit whom they are talking to and the
context. They can change their accent or speed of talking, they use different
vocabulary and they can change the language register. Bullock refers to such

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monolingual behaviour as style shifting (ibid.). Nevertheless, bilinguals have a
much more complex way of shifting called language shifting (ibid.). They can
choose among different language registers of one language and they can choose
between languages. Hence bilinguals have more possibilities to adopt their
language, since they may change varieties in one language, change languages and
change languages and varieties. Given the appropriate circumstances, many
bilinguals will exploit this ability and alternate between languages in an unchanged
setting, often within the same utterance; this is the phenomenon understood as
code-switching. (ibid.)

My analysis will be based on Gumperz definition of conversational codeswitching who describes it as the juxtaposition within the same speech exchange
of passages of speech belonging to two different grammatical systems or
subsystems. (Gumperz 59) Moreover he explains a very important fact concerning
the language quality: Speakers communicate fluently, maintaining an even flow of
talk. No hesitation pauses, changes in sentence rhythm, pitch level or intonation
contour (ibid.).

Unfortunately, a change of language within a conversation is often falsely

perceived as a lack of language skills. That is only true in very few cases, normally
the code switched information could equally well be expressed in either
language. (ibid. 65) Hence code-switching is understood as an individual
phenomenon wherein a speaker chooses when why and how to alternate between
languages (Bullock and Toribio 6) when talking to other bilinguals. Factors that
influence this language choice are the speaker and addressee, the situation or
context, the topic and the purpose of the conversation. Furthermore code-switching
may be deployed for several reasons like filling linguistic gaps, expressing ethnic
identity, and achieving particular discursive aims (ibid. 2) Studies have shown
that code-switchers are neither uneducated nor incapable of expressing themselves
in one or the other language, but rather skilfully manipulate two language systems
for various communicative functions. Valds made a rather apposite remark
describing the ability to code-switch with a wonderful metaphor: It is helpful to
imagine that when bilinguals code-switch, they are in fact using a twelve-string
guitar, rather than limiting themselves to six-string instruments. (Valds 26)

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3. Types of Code-Switching
That code-switching is not arbitrary, but rule-governed has been
demonstrated in various studies. Thereby linguists normally distinguish between
three different types of code-switching which require different levels of language
proficiency. To understand the following studies, I will shortly explain the codeswitching types, namely extra-sentential, inter-sentential and intra-sentential codeswitching, and illustrate each with an example.

Extra-sentential code-switching (exp.1), which is also called tag-switching, is

deployed among bilinguals with limited abilities in one language, as it is defined as
the insertion of a tag (e.g. you know, I mean) from one language into an utterance
which is completely in another language (Bullock and Toribio 4).
(1) Frenchville French-English
Les autres pourraient [sic] parler franais comme lui, ya know.
The others could speak French like him, (ibid.)
In inter-sentential code-switching (exp. 2) alternation occurs at clause or sentence
boundaries. Since it often entails the production of full clauses in each language, it
already requires an advanced level of bilingualism proficiency.
(2) Swahili-English
Thats too much. Sina pesa.
I dont have [much] money. (Myers-Scotton 1993a, 41)
The highest level of bilingualism proficiency is required for intra-sentential codeswitching (exp. 3). It can be termed classic code-switching (Myers-Scotton 1993b) or
alternational code-switching (Muysken) too.
(3) Punjabi-English
Kio ke six, seven hours te school de vic spend karde ne, they are
speaking English all the time.
Because they spend six or seven hours a day at schoo they are
speaking English all the time (Hamers and Blanc 260)
Although all of these types can be classified as code-switching, intrasentential code-switching reveals the most insights into the ways in which the two
grammars of the bilingual collaborate at the sentence level. In order to explain that, I

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would like to share Bullocks hypothetical examples (4) that clearly show a violation
of core principles of code-switching.

(4) Spanish-English
a. *Sometimes yo will empezar a oracin in ingls and termino in
b. Sometimes Ill empezar una oracin en ingls y I finish in
c. A veces yo will start a sentence in English and I termino en
Sometimes I start a sentence in English and finish it in
Spanish (Bullock 4)
In an English-Spanish bilingual society those sentence would not be accepted,
because they violate core principles of code-switching. Code-switching requires an
understanding of both grammatical systems and bilinguals can only switch at certain
points, where neither of the two grammar systems is violated. Interestingly,
Gumperz states that linguists normally see the code alternation as highly salient,
whereas bilinguals themselves are often unaware which code is applied at any time
(Gumperz 61). Their main concern is with the communicative effect of what they
are saying. Selection among linguistic alternants is automatic, not readily subject to
conscious recall. (ibid.) Therefore the social norms or rules somehow govern their
language usage just like grammatical rules and consequently form part of the
underlying knowledge which speakers use to convey meaning. (ibid.)

4. Examples of Code-Switching
How social norms or rules govern the language usage of the bilingual
speaker will be presented in the following studies. Obviously, this paper only gives
me the possibility to introduce the results shortly. Therefore some findings which
may be interesting, but not relevant for my topic, will be left out.

4.1 Blom & Gumperz (1972)

John J. Gumperz (1922-2013) was professor of Anthropology at the
University of California, Berkeley (Gumperz 1) and Jan Petter Blom is a professor
emeritus in social anthropology at the University of Bergen, Norway (UiB). Their
study of code-switching was one of the first which investigated natural vernacular
speech with an ethnographic perspective (Gardner-Chloros 97). Therefore it is a
very important study for the sociolinguistic branch, which generally analyses how

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language behaviour and use is connected to the social identity and characteristics of
the speaker. Blom and Gumperz aim was to analyse the social and linguistic factors
involved in the communication process and to test Bernsteins hypothesis that
social relationships act as intervening variables between linguistic structures and
their realisation in speech (Blom and Gumperz 111).

The data was collected in natural conversational settings over two months in
Hemnesberget, a small town of about 1,300 inhabitants in northern Norway. The
residents of Hemnesberget speak a dialect of northern Norway called Ranaml.
During their research Blom and Gumperz found out that this dialect earns a great
prestige in this area and residents like to identify themselves with the dialect,
because it symbolises pride in their community and in the distinctness of its
contribution to society at large. (ibid.) Nevertheless, all speakers of Ranaml also
control standard Norwegian Bokml since formal education, official transactions,
religion and mass media are always carried out in the standard language. Therefore,
members select among dialect and standard as the situation demands. Whereas the
dialect is connected to an sphere of domestic and friendship relations, the
standard imparts national Norwegian values. Speakers preferring the standard
normally didnt grow up in Hemnesberget and associate the dialect with lack of
education and sophistication. (ibid. 121) Empirical evidence to support the view of
the dialect as a distinct linguistic entity is given in their paper. Furthermore they
explain that standard and dialect are almost isomorphic in syntax and phonetics, but
differ in morphophonemic realisations of shared grammatical categories.

Before they start analysing their data, they explain how social meaning is
incorporated. Assigning particular objects a social value is as arbitrary as the
referential naming of objects. However, whereas referential meanings are
recoverable through the study of individual words, social meanings are not, because
they attach not only to acoustic signs but also to settings and background
knowledge, as well as to particular word sequences. Therefore, effective
communication requires that speakers and audiences agree both on the meaning of
words and on the social import or values attached to choice of expression. (ibid.

In a nutshell, Blom and Gumperz found out that all of the investigated groups
were switching frequently between the dialect and the standard. Although they

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prefer to speak in the dialect, they tend to switch to the standard in situations where
it conveys meanings of officiality, expertise, and politeness (ibid. 135). A person
using the standard in private gatherings, however, expresses social distance and
disdain for the community. The social and linguistic factors which influence the
communication process are the topic, the setting, the social situation and the social
event. It was demonstrated that the locals loyalty to Ranaml is very strong.
Therefore the dialect and the standard remain separate as well as the cultural
identities they communicate and the social values implied therein. (ibid. 119)

4.2 Poplack (1980)

Shana Poplack is a distinguished professor of linguistics at the University of
Ottawa, Canada (uOttawa). The study we are looking at is just as groundbreaking
and important as the study of Blom and Gumperz. She investigated the codeswitching behaviour from a grammatical perspective based on participant
observation of their distribution in the daily life of the community, analysis of
attitudes of community members toward each of the languages and quantitative
sociolinguistic analysis of selected linguistic behaviour. (Poplack 223)

The data was collected from the Puerto Rican community in 102nd Street in
East Harlem, New York. 95% of the block residents are Puerto Rican, which leads to
an almost ethnically homogeneous environment. This area is supposedly the oldest
continuos Puerto Rican settlement which brings about a stable bilingual community,
rather than a transitional one (ibid. 224). About half of the block residents were born
and raised in New York and are either English dominant or bilingual. The older
people were generally born and raised in Puerto Rico and tend to be Spanish
dominant or monolingual. Bilingual in this context means that speakers are equally
fluent in both languages. One could also call them balanced bilinguals or true
bilinguals (Bullock and Toribio 7).

Poplack observed that there are three different types of communication in

the community: English-speaking, Spanish-speaking and code-switching. Spanish
predominates at home and English predominates in official settings. Interviewing the
informants, she found out that 90% felt that Spanish is important or very important
to being Puerto Rican (Poplack 235).

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Si tu eres puertoriqueo [if youre Puerto Rican], your fathers a
Puerto Rican, you should at least de vez en cuando [sometimes],
you know, hablar espaol [speak Spanish]. (ibid.)
Furthermore, 60% of the informants claimed that there was nothing that could be
said in one language that couldnt be translated into the other. Anything they could
say in Spanish, they could also say in English. 75% were even aware that codeswitching is frequent and wide-spread phenomenon in their community. (ibid.)

She found out that the degree of language proficiency that a speaker
possesses in two languages correlates with the type of code-switching he is
engaged in. Whereas speakers who are dominant in Spanish show a strong
tendency to switch into English from a Spanish base, more balanced bilinguals often
alternate base languages within the same discourse (ibid. 238). The investigation
revealed that speakers which preferred inter-sentential code-switching were rather
balanced bilinguals and speakers who favoured extra-sentential code-switching
were often Spanish or English dominant. Still, the most difficult but at the same time
most favoured switch type for bilinguals was clearly intra-sentential code-switching
(ibid. 247). Extra-linguistic factors which influence the code-switching type were
found out to be education, workplace, ethnic identity and continued contact to
Puerto Rico (ibid. 250).

Finally, Poplack demonstrated that code-switching is rule-governed and

systematic, since a code-switched segment, and those around, must conform to the
underlying syntactic rules of two languages which bridge the constituents and link
them together grammatically. (ibid. 230) Among 1,835 switches studied regardless
of the bilingual ability of the speaker there were no instances of ungrammatical
combinations found (ibid.). The speakers have the capacity to differentiate illformed from grammatical patterns of code-switching, just like monolinguals possess
intuition about what involves well-formed utterances in their mother tongue. Hence,
especially intra-sentential code-switching requires a high level of bilingual
competence and a knowledge of two distinct grammars. For the Puerto Rican
community English and Spanish are both an integral part of their identity (ibid. 235).
This integrated duality leads naturally to a coexistence of the two languages within

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4.3 Amuda (1994)
Dr. Ayoade Amuda is a professor at the University of Wales and teaches
sociolinguistics, forensic linguistics and multilingualism (USW). In his study he
examines how code-switching functions in conversations. Collecting data from
recordings of conversations among Yoruba/English bilinguals in Nigeria, he proves
that code-switching is used to encode social meanings. Furthermore, he explains
that such meanings are often not recoverable from the content of what is said, but
through an interplay of the languages used, the relationship among the
interlocutors, as well as social and background knowledge about the
society. (Amuda 121)

The speakers that Amuda observed are all educated bilinguals from Ile-Ife, a
city with about 410,000 inhabitants southwestern Nigeria. Most of them work in and
around the Obafemi Awolowo University. Recorded segments of speech were
examined and functions of conversational code-switching were analysed. In order to
carry out a more detailed analysis of the conversations and make correct
interpretations of the underlying social meanings, background information and social
features were examined as well. Closely connected to this, he clarifies that
interpreting a bilingual conversation is much more complex than interpreting a
monolingual conversation, since monolinguals draw on words, which meanings are
relatively stable and normally preserved in a dictionary. This implies that elemental
referential meanings are shared by all speakers. In bilingual conversations,
however, the conventions for interpretation are often dependent on networks of
interpersonal relationships which are subject to change with changing relationships.
(ibid. 122)
Amuda found out that code-switching was used for various functions.
Bilinguals frequently code-switch when they want to encode clarification, a personal
comment, addressee specification and attention attraction. Without code-switching,
the recorded sentences would have had a totally different meaning. The following
examples may illustrate this argumentation:

(1) Secretary: The topic is relevant and the question is also relevant,
but - ohun ti mi s ni w p [what I am saying is that] - the topic
will not have anything to do with the prize. (ibid., 125)

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The Yoruba utterance among the English phrases would be ambiguous in a
monolingual context. It could be interpreted to mean either (a) or (b).

(a) I am sorry, I did not make myself clear. This is what I am trying to
(b) You didnt pay attention when I was speaking earlier. That is why
you have a wrong interpretation. Now listen, while I am trying to
say (ibid.)
Due to the code-switching, however, it can only mean (b), since code-switching in
this context has a similar effect like what is conveyed through intonation in
monolingual settings (ibid. 126), the addressee is being mocked. As a support of
this interpretation Amuda describes the reaction of the addressee who feels clearly
offended and accused the secretary of being rude, calling for an apology.. (ibid.

In the second example, the speaker uses the code-switching to highlight

that he was directly involved, and also the seriousness of the situation (ibid. 127)
when speaking to a friend about a problem at work.

(2) M: These are possibilities because some people are discomfited

by the order of things. - Ir mi y, b b j p wn l se ogn
kan, k n [consider my own situation. If it was possible for them to
conjure something that would make me extinct] - disappear, they
would have done it (ibid.)
If M. had used only English, the meaning of the Yoruba utterance wouldnt attain the
same meaning. By using Yoruba, the speaker activates the interlocutors background
knowledge. The term ogn describes a medicine in the Yoruba culture that spells
are often used to make people behave like a zombie. (ibid.) Using this term may
seem like an exaggeration, nevertheless, it conveys the meaning of his feelings
much better than an English phrase.

All in all, Amudas findings clearly show that conversational code-switching

is used to encode social meanings among Yoruba/English bilinguals (ibid. 130).
Moreover he notes that, the major contribution of code-switched utterance in
conversation is not the content of what is said, but the interpretation of the language
in regard to the situation and interpersonal relationships among the speakers. Still,

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he remarks that bilinguals are often unaware of which language they use at any
one time, since they are mainly concerned with the message content of their
utterance (ibid. 121). Therefore, the choice of the components is often difficult to
recall verbatim. Obviously, in order to communicate successfully in the Nigerian
bilingual community, the competence of both languages as well as shared social
and background knowledge is required.

5. Comparison between Communities

Although the studies depict very different bilingual communities, all of them
show the same form of societal bilingualism, namely situation II where both
languages or varieties coexist and get mixed (Appel and Muysken 10).
Situation I

Situation II

Situation III


Language A
Language B
(adapted from Appel and Muysken 10)

The Norwegian bilinguals live in a small town were everybody is a bilingual.

The residents dont speak two different languages, but standard Norwegian and a
variety of Norwegian. Since all of them are bilinguals, the socio-economic as well as
the educational background is diverse.

The Puerto Ricans living in New York code-switch between English and
Spanish. Two languages, which are linguistically quite similar. In contrast to the
residents of Hemnesberget, the Puerto Ricans are immigrants in New York, which
means apart from their community, the city is ethnically very diverse. Some of them
lived in the U. S. their whole life, but others, particularly the older generation was
born and raised in Puerto Rico. Therefore, they are not stable bilinguals, but rather
dominant in one of the two languages. Furthermore, the community lives in one of
the lowest socio-economic areas of the City (Poplack 232). Only 20% of them have
a high school degree or college education (ibid. 234).

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The Nigerian bilinguals are all very educated and mostly work in and around
the Obafemi Awolowo University. They switch between Yoruba and English, two very
different languages, which are also connected to very different cultures.

In all of the communities, which are even on three different continents, it was
shown that the languages the people speak are strongly connected to their social
and cultural identity. All of the speakers tend to associate one language to formal
activities like school, work, church etc. and the other to informal activities. With the
words of Gumperz we could call that they code and we code. (Gumperz 66). The
we code displays the minority language and the they code the majority language.
Through the mix of those different codes a multiplicity of social identities may be
evoked. (Gardner-Chloros 105) Moreover, I think one could enhance Gumperz
theory, especially for the Puerto Ricans, and say that the code-switching becomes
their we-code, since it is an integral part of their identity.

6. Social Meanings of Code-Switching

Saussure explained that every language system (langue) is value-producing
and, hence, meaning-making (Sausssure 155). Monolinguals are normally not
aware of this connection between language and social meaning. Bilinguals on the
other hand are used to switch between two languages or varieties of a language and
therefore also switch between two cultural forms. They are aware that their own
mode of behaviour is only one of several possible modes, that style of
communication affects the interpretation of what a speaker intends to communicate
and that there are others with different communicative conventions and standards of
evaluation. (Gumperz 65)

The three communities observed, exactly show this virtue. They know that
the two languages they are using are connected to two cultural forms and therefore
they use the code-switching as to convey meaning. Blom and Gumperz study
shows that, since the prove that social relationships act as intervening variables
between linguistic structures and their realisation in speech. The residents of
Hemnesberget were all very loyal to the Ranaml dialect, nevertheless they
switched in several situations to the standard in order to convey meanings of
officiality, expertise, and politeness (Blom and Gumperz 135). Obviously, effective
communication requires that speakers and audiences agree both on the meaning of

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words and on the social import or values attached to choice of expression. (ibid.

Poplack ascertained that the Puerto Rican community in New York perceives
the code-switching between English and Spanish as an integral part of their identity
(Poplack 235). Therefore, they are not only competent in two languages and their
grammars, they also connect the language to the corresponding culture and social
meanings. The balanced bilinguals in the community even preferred intra-sentential
code-switching, the most complex type of code-switching.

Amuda showed in his study that code-switching is used to convey different

social meanings. The Nigerians frequently code-switch when they want to encode
clarification, a personal comment, addressee specification and attention attraction.
His examples illustrate that bilingual conversations are much more complex than
monolingual conversations, since they open a larger margin of interpretation.

All in all, code-switching is a very complex phenomenon which enables the

speakers to convey meaning. The studies show that code-switchers must live
together in a bilingual community in order to share the same background
assumptions, otherwise there would be a risk of serious misunderstanding
(Gumperz 69). Only knowing the two languages is not enough, an outsider of the
community would most certainly interpret the sentences in a very different way.
Moreover, code-switching somehow allows bilinguals to gain access to different
roles or voices by switching in between their languages (Gardner-Chloros 99). As
a consequence, bilinguals do not only use code-switching to convey different
meanings, the bilinguals themselves also, often unintentionally, take over different
roles in society. This shows that language always reflects society and that social
structures somehow exist before language, which simply reflects or expresses the
more fundamental categories of the social. (Cameron 57)

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