Communication In A Globalized World Cultural Studies Essay

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The metaphorical shrinking of the world has brought a vast array of ethnicity and diversity of peoples into contact and this contact "nearly always involves a linguistic dimension as well" Trudgill in Winford, 2003 xv). There is a necessity to communicate with each other, to trade, to manage socially, if not in a melting pot, at least in a salad bowl scenario, ingredients that go together yet do not necessarily mix and people strive to overcome the linguistic barrier by "seeking compromise between their forms of speech" (Winford 2003: 1). At the micro, individual level, Li Wei (2007:4) informs us the "usual consequence of language contact is bilingualism or multilingualism". A characteristic of bilingualism is code-switching "the alternate use of two or more languages in the same utterance or conversation" (Grosjean (1982: 145), and accordingly, this essay proposes to identify why bilinguals code-switch in their interlocutions and to provide evidence to support the identifications.

When conversing, speakers endeavour to accommodate to the linguistic and social act of the conversation. By manner of stylistic form or type of register employed participants either converge to, or diverge away from, their interlocutor to convey their message in a manner that may indicate their liking or, alternatively, their disliking of their interlocutor(s), Bilinguals would appear to have further accommodation possibilities at their disposal due to access to another language as part of their linguistic repertoire. An important point to consider however is what constitutes being a bilingual. Baetens Beardsmore comments, "Bilingualism as a term has open ended semantics" (1982:1). Thus, it may mean different things to different people. Fundamentally, the competency and degree of access of every bilingual will vary along a number of different dimensions, which are psychological, cognitive, psycholinguistic, sociological, sociocultural, and linguistic. Ng Bee Chin and Wigglesworth (2007:5) argue, "Bilinguals do not, and cannot, function like two monolinguals." They propose that each individual differs greatly in how the language is used; this usage influences their degree of competence in both languages. Subsequently, ignoring the linguistic factors constraining code-switching (see Holmes (2001); Myers-Scotton (1993) and Poplack (1978/81), both cited in Li Wei (2007: 219), the domains where code-switching may occur are many fold and include switches of code related to a multitude of reasons; and may occur in various ways as proposed by Poplack (1980): tag switching, inter-sentential and intra-sentential. They are also subject to the attitude of the code-switcher.

A prominent explanation of why bilinguals code-switch is that they lack language proficiency: they do not know both languages completely. However, the adoption of this "lack of formal knowledge" stance (cf. Grosjean (1982) and his study of Spanish / English bilinguals) neglects the role of the memory when trying to recall known words that cannot be recalled immediately. It is a matter of language use and word frequency. After all, the fluency in French learnt at school does not always come to mind quickly when the need to speak it arises due to a lack of access or use. Thus, a word from the mother tongue is uttered in its place. It may also be a case of "language loss," in all probability through lack of use of the L1. Moreover, as Paradis (1985) Language Sciences, 7(1), 1-39, asserts, L1 features become difficult to activate through infrequent usage, the activation threshold becomes higher. It may also transpire that diminished access to the L1, or a greater access to the L2, may lead to a speaker struggling with some aspects of inflectional morphology. An example is provided by Romaine (1995: 123) where an English word shops has Panjabi inflectional morphology shoppã: indicative of the lack of practice or access to L1, not loss of L1 competency.

Social factors also play a prominent part in code-switch usage. Myers-Scotton (1993a: 57) argues code-switching is a conscious act, that the linguistic choices convey "intentional meaning of a socio-pragmatic nature", not as a response to social identity or as a response to the situation. Although, Woolard (2004) asserts that in her research speakers are not always aware of their code-switching in communicative interaction. Auer cited in Li Wei (2007: 132) states that the "transfer must be discourse or participant related, and may even display a speaker's bilingual competence." This suggests that switching is situational (Blom and Gumperz in Li Wei 2007:89). Moreover, it is indexical to social interactions. In other words, switching codes is dependent on topic and interlocutor to demonstrate ethnic identity, a shared background, or show a form of solidarity. Moreover, according to Holmes (2001: 36) "bilinguals find it easier to discuss particular topics in one code rather than another". Holmes provides an example (1), taken from a study by Blom and Gumperz (1972) where the locals of Hemnesberget in Norway discuss business matters in the H-variety Bokmål and general life in the L-variety of Ranamål. Furthermore, the interlocutors mix codes dependent on participant; the interlocutors in the formal setting were neighbours; thus, the L-variety was incorporated alongside the H-variety.

{Bokmål is in small capitals. Ranamål is in lower case.

1) Jan: Hello Petter. How is your wife now?

Petter: Oh she's much better now Jan. She's out of hospital and convalescing well.

Jan: That's good I'm pleased to hear it. DO YOU THINK YOU COULD HELP ME WITH THIS PESKY FORM? I'M HAVING A GREAT DEAL OF TROUBLE WITH IT.

Petter: OF COURSE. GIVE IT HERE

The following examples, (2), (3), and (4) taken from Holmes (2001: 35) illustrate the use of code-switching to demonstrate shared ethnicity and background and shows of solidarity:

2). Tamati: Engari, (SO) now we turn to more important matters

So, now we turn to more important matters

(Switch between Maori and English)

3). Ming: Confiscated by customs, dà gài (PROBABLY)

(Switch between English and Chinese Cantonese)

4). A: Well. I'm glad I met you. OK?

M: Àndale pues (OK SWELL), and do come again. Mm?

(Switch between Spanish and English)

In (2) and (3) emblematic or tag switching is employed: the interjection or tag in another language serves as a marker of ethnicity and in (4), the Spanish tag employed by M is an ethnic marker that signalled to A that although the previous conversation was in English, they share the same ethnic background. Example (5), in Holmes (2001: 34) illustrates switching to demonstrate solidarity. A conversation is in full flow when a new person has arrived. The Maori greeting is an expression of solidarity:

(5). Sarah: I think everyone's here except Mere

John: She said she might be a bit late but actually I think that's her arriving now

Sarah: You're right. Kia ora Mere. Haere mai. Kei te pehea koe?

You're right. Hi Mere. Come in. How are you?

Mere: Kia ora e hoa. Kei te pai. Have you started yet?

Hello my friend. I'm fine. Have you started yet?

Code-switching can be used for amusement and alienation of a person or persons. In Paraguay, for an example, Guaraní, the L- variety is used for joking and humorous anecdotes (Holmes, 2001: 39); and speakers switch codes to avoidance languages in order to exclude "out-group" members. Sometimes this is done deliberately to emphasise group distinctiveness in an encounter, as illustrated in the example provided in Heller (1985: 78-9). A bilingual French and English receptionist is conversing with an Anglophone man who requires a French proficiency test:

(5). Man: Could you tell me where the French test is?

Receptionist: Pardon?

Man: Could you tell me where the French test is?

Receptionist: En Français? (In French?)

Man: I have the right to be addressed in English by the government of Quebec

Receptionist: Qu'est-ce qu'il dit? (What's he saying?)

(To a third person)

Another plausible reason according to Heredia and Altarriba (2001:165) is that people code-switch as a strategy to be better understood. "Cariño implies a combination of liking and affection and neither of these words alone truly conveys the meaning of the Spanish word". Two Spanish bilinguals speaking in English would achieve a better level of understanding using the Spanish word. In addition, interlocutors may switch for what Romaine (1995:161) terms "to clarify the message and in addition, provide "qualification of the message." Moreover, Romaine's examples from Gumperz (1982:78) (6) and Timm (1978) (7), cite a Puerto Rican mother who calls her children by saying the same thing in two languages and demonstrates how a topic is introduced in one language and qualified in another; French and Russian, respectively.

6). Ven acἁ Ven acἁ Come here you

Come here Come here Come here you

Come here, Come here, Come here you

7). Les femmes et la vin, ne ponimayu

Women and wine, I don't know much about

Women and wine, I don't know much about

In Summary, code-switching is produced for both linguistic and socially motivated reasons; through memory and language loss as well as code-switching indexical to social interactions.

Speakers may "forget a word, token or phrase, and add one from their L1 or they switch codes dependent on topic and interlocutor to demonstrate ethnic identity, a shared background, or show a form of solidarity: consciously or subconsciously. Although, social factors such as the extent of contact between members of the groups, and the degrees of bilingual competence that individuals display culminates in varying degrees and types of code-switch.

Word count: not inclusive of data 1245

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