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Code Switching: Intersentential and Intrasentential Research Paper

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Updated: Jan 9th, 2022

Introduction

Code switching has been misunderstood even in the area of research, but there is evidence that it has provided important “insights” in the understanding of the skills utilized by children in acquiring more than one language (Troike 143). While some people posit that code switching is mere borrowing or loaning of words from one language into another, this paper shows that it involves more than mere loaning and borrowing of words between languages. The paper finds out that code switching is more complicated than sometimes thought to only involve loaning and borrowing of words from one language to another, explained by the fact that code switching involves psychological, grammatical and sociocultural factors and is done for various reasons. In addition, it relies on skills and experience of practice among the speakers.

Research has found two kinds of code switching, namely, “intersentential” and “intrasentential” (Troike 143). This position regarding two forms of code switching is also held by Zentella. Intrasentential switching is where code switching is done inside single sentences or within sentences, while code switching between sentences is referred to as intersentential code switching. In the first kind (intersentential), the respective languages do not interact like in the second kind.

Most research has explored intrasentential code switching than intersentential. In fact, intersentential code switching has been confusingly referred to as code mixing by several European researchers, while intrasentential code switching is recognized as “true” code switching. However, the difference between practicing the two types is due to fluency and experience of a code switcher has. Through skills acquired from practice, fluent bilinguals can and do practice intrasenential. Several bilinguals are unable to switch between languages within a sentence when they can effectively do so within discourses.

Uriel Weinreich posits that ideal code switching should comply with the need for changing “speech situation” and not in unchanged speech situation or even code switching within a single sentence. This notion has, however, been largely rejected (Zentella 213).

Code Switching Practice and Theory

Introduction

Code switching is a major practice among growing children who do not understand the “differences” in the languages they are exposed to at young ages (Troike 146). Formal public contexts restricts the use of home languages in areas like the United States’ institutions, while in some areas students are free to develop heritage languages. Although it is difficult in practice, bilingual parents can encourage their children to distinguish among various languages and associate different languages with different speakers by adopting “one person, one language” strategy (Troike 146). Children can suffer “permanent cognitive impairment” where native heritage language may not be fully developed as a result of introduction of national languages in very early ages (Troike 146).

A great number of researchers have studied code switching. Research establishes the major three perspectives of code switching as “sociolinguistic, grammatical, or psycholinguistic”; according to Troike (143). These perspectives seek to answer the major question in code switching research: why and how code switching is done, and what do code switching speakers do to accomplish code switching. These perspectives show that there is more than one factor to consider when studying code switching, namely psychological, grammatical and sociological factors. Again, code switchers are being affected by these factors during the practice of code switching. As far as language and grammatical factors are concerned, code switching is a major practice among growing children who do not understand the “differences” in the languages they are exposed to at young age (Troike 146). It can, therefore, be argued out that these children code switch to facilitate communication. Formal public contexts restricts the use of home languages in areas like the United States’ institutions, while in some areas students are free to develop heritage languages in multicultural contexts.

Although it is difficult in practice, bilingual and bicultural parents can encourage their children to distinguish among various languages and associate different languages with different speakers by adopting “one person, one language” strategy (Troike 146). Children can suffer “permanent cognitive impairment” where native heritage language may not be fully developed as a result of introduction of national languages in very early ages (Troike 146).

Misconceptions and Position about Code-switching

While some authors have wrongly conceived that code-switchers cannot keep the many languages involved separately, this position has been doubted with evidence that code-switchers can, in fact, separately and freely use all the languages when each is necessary. Another misconception is that code switching involves “borrowing” or loaning of words from one language into the other (Zentella 214). Instead, code switching must result into formation of “another” language according to Zentella (214). This is the case with the use of the term “Spanglish” to identify code switching from Spanish into English among Puerto Ricans in the New York (Zentella 215).

Code switching must not be misunderstood to mean only replacement of words from one language into another while speaking. Most code switching is “unconsciously” applied, according to Troike (144). Bilinguals will alternate various languages while speaking, and they understand “when” and “where” to use each or more of the languages, as well as “whether” the relative languages can be “woven” in single utterances (Zentella 213). For the case of monolinguals, only various “features” such as phonological and grammatical features may be switched while speaking one language, according to Zentella (213).

Reasons for Code Switching: There are various reasons for code switching

Code switching is done for various reasons. While some code switch because the practice is “emblematic” among the group members (Troike 143), others code switch for lack of words or expressions in one of the respective languages, coupled with the need to communicate. “Community membership” also was a reason for code switching among French-English speakers in Canada (Zentella 219).

Other reasons for code switching include signaling a change in footing (which means that individuals change alignments to themselves or parties present to managing production or reception of utterances). Speakers in this case may code switch for the purpose of highlighting the intended realignment such as need for “appeal” or “control” (Zentella 222). However, code switching may also vary according to how “proficiency” one is in a give language (Zentella 223), as well as how a certain language is “dominant” for each speaker (224). This has been witnessed in the study case of English-Spanish languages switches done by Zentella. Zentella found that English was a dominant language among girl participants as they grow up, and this affected their choice for code switching.

The subject target in communication also influences choice for code switching. Perfect code switching is a matter of “practice” as one communicates with other code switchers according to Troike (143). This explains the difference between fluent and non-fluent bilinguals. It is possible for all fluent bilinguals to switch codes within sentences, but this is not the case with all bilinguals. The latter may only be able to change codes for different discourses. In deed, code switching is facilitated by the choice required by individuals when they are communicating specific information (“what” is communicated) to specific people (to “whom”) and the time it is spoken (“when” to speak it) (Zentella 215). The “outcome” of language selection such as the expected respect for cultural and social standards may affect selection of language in code switching, according to Zentella (216). The social values and the need to manage conversations are shared among various speakers, and they affect choice of languages.

The fact that there are several reasons for code switching reveals that code switchers seek to achieve a certain purpose while communicating. Thus, code switching is a result-oriented practice, and thus cannot be perceived as involving only loaning and borrowing of words. The finding that it is applied for various reasons support the fact that code switching is organized, directional and purposeful, meaning it is more than just loaning or borrowing words between languages.

Grammatical factors affecting Code Switching

Research indicates that the grammatical factors influencing code switching act to limit possibilities of code switching. For instance, according to Troike, there is “close agreement” among code switchers of the fluent bilingual nature, over what would constitute “grammatical” and “ungrammatical” switch (144). Languages carrying different word orders may be difficult to switch between each other, when it is considered that code switching will violate the two or more languages involved. This may be regarded as ungrammatical to code switch. This is referred to as the “equivalent constraint”, according to Troike (114). For instance, Korean speakers have a problem to switch to English because of the differences in word order between the two languages. While English language adopts the subject-verb-object order, in Korean language, the ‘object’ occurs in between the subject and verb. Some other constraints involved in code switching include switchers avoiding to switch “between attached pronoun forms” and modified words, “between auxiliary verbs” and where “negatives and ‘WH-question’ constituents” are involved (Troike 144).

Other grammatical constraints are attached to the “sociocultural status relations” among the relative languages (Troike 145). While “”asymmetrical” code switching may be witnessed between languages of perceived differences in social status, switching in any direction may occur between languages with sociolinguistic parity (145). An example for asymmetrical code switching is between English and Swedish in America, while equal switching in ‘both directions’ is witnessed in code switching between English and Japanese. In asymmetrical code switching, users are found to switch from the language perceived to be of a lower status to one perceived to be of higher status.

Socio-cultural Factors affecting Code Switching

Like the grammatical factors, sociocultural factors tend to limit the application of code switching, in that code switching respects sociocultural status of languages. As discussed in the preceding section, the socio-cultural factors affecting code switching include the status relations perceived to exist among languages. Some languages are thought to have a higher social status than others. Between languages of different sociocultural status relationships, code switching tends to favor certain direction. Thus, the switching is asymmetrical in nature. Code switchers prefer switching from the language with lower status to the one with a higher status. Code switching is symmetrical in nature where the languages are perceived to have no sociocultural differences. However, this is perceived as mysterious and it is considered necessary to explore what in the brain favors this preference for higher social status than lower sociocultural status languages when code switching is taking place.

Psychological Factors affecting Code Switching

Studies of the psycholinguistics of code switching reveal that the brain “simultaneously” processes similar information in different languages the speaker is familiar with. Bilinguals therefore process information in two languages in separate channels, although it appears that the information is stored in one language. This parallel-channel concept is evidenced by existence of “grammatical agreement” across different languages (145). The second evidence is the occurrence of code switching in a flow of speech which is smooth and “seamless” without time lapses, indicating that two systems are not being interchangeably switched on and off to facilitate speaking (145).

Code switching has also been evidenced to carry “doublings” or “overlappings”, which are a third evidence of existence of parallel channeling of information processing in the brain in various languages. For instance, switchers of English into Korean repeat words with the same meaning as words already mentioned in English, while code switching in one sentence.

Conclusion

The fact that code switching seeks to achieve certain objectives and purposes as seen (there are several reasons for code switching), means that it is directional, purposeful and organized. In addition, as revealed, code switching is affected by psychological, grammatical and social factors. These factors limit usage in soe directions while favoring usage of code switches in other directions. Thus, in conclusion, code switching is more than mere loaning and borrowing of words from one language to another. Although it is unconscious, code switching is directional, purposeful and organized and depends on skills and experience of the speaker.

References

Troike, Rudolph C. “Code Switching.” Encyclopedia of Bilingual Education. Vol. 1. Ed. Josué, González. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc., 2008, 142-147.

Zentella, Celia. “The hows and whys of Spanglish.” Growing Up Bilingual: Puerto Rican Children in New York. Zentella, Celia. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997, 213-229.

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