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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: August 2013

7 - Code-switching: linguistic choices across language boundaries


In order to resume. Resume the – what is the word? What the wrong word?

Samuel Beckett, Ill Seen, Ill Said

The speech which had started off one hundred percent in Ibo was now fifty-fifty. But his audience still seemed highly impressed. They liked good Ibo, but they also admired English.

Chinua Achebe, No Longer at Ease

Outline of the chapter

Code-switching is a topic that comes into focus where two or more languages coexist in a community, forming the linguistic resources from which bilingual speakers can choose. In their conversations, these individuals do not necessarily choose one language or another, but often go back and forth. This chapter deals with the social and linguistic aspects of such speech behaviour. After introducing the concept of code-switching and distinguishing it from other language contact-related phenomena, it explains why the key term of this field of research is code-switching rather than, for example, language-switching and then goes on to discuss the questions, ‘Who switches?’, ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’ At the end of the chapter, brief mention is made of diachronic aspects of code-switching as a force of language change.

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Further reading
Auer, Peter (ed.) 1998. Code-Switching in Conversation: Language, Interaction and Identity. London and New York: Routledge.
Gardner-Chloros, Penelope. 2009. Code-switching. Cambridge University Press.
Jacobson, Rodolfo (ed.) 1998a. Codeswitching Worldwide. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
2001. Language alternation: the third kind of codeswitching mechanism. In Jacobson, Rodolfo (ed.), Codeswitching Worldwide II. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 59–72.
Muysken, Pieter. 2000. Bilingual Speech: A Typology of Code-Mixing. Cambridge University Press.
Myers-Scotton, Carol. 1993a. Social Motivations for Codeswitching: Evidence from Africa. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
1993b. Duelling Languages: Grammatical Structure in Codeswitching. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Treffers-Daller, Jeanine. 1994. Mixing Two Languages: French-Dutch Contact in a Comparative Perspective. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.