An Overview and the Definition of Code switching

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Gumperz (1982) cited in Romaine (1995, p.121) defines code-switching as the juxtaposition within the same speech exchange of passages of speech belonging to two different grammatical systems or sub-systems. According to Heredia & Brown (n.d.), bilinguals frequently replace a word or a phrase of one language with its equivalent from the other language. The phenomenon of mixing the languages is called code-switching.

Baker & Jones (1998, p.58) note that code-switching is 'a change of language within a conversation, most often when bilinguals are in the company of other bilinguals'. Code-switching is a process in which individual bilinguals choose consciously or usually subconsciously the language of their conversation. The chosen language has various names. It can be called the base language, recipient language, or matrix language, while the second language is called the donor language or the embedded language. Code-switching takes place when bilinguals use items ranging from single words to sentences from one or more donor languages into the base language (Baker & Jones 1998). According to Hoffmann (1991), code-switching is the use of two languages alternatively or using different varieties in the same language within a conversation.

2.6.1 Attitudes towards Code-switching.

Generally, people have different views towards code-switching. Romaine (1995), states that Gumperz (1982), says that some people believe that the phenomenon of code-switching is due to the bilinguals' lack of learning a second language and their impropriety in monitoring the two languages. While other people consider code-switching as one of the accepted forms of informal talk.

In addition, Baker & Jones (1998) note that because of code-switching, monolingual individuals may have negative attitudes towards bilinguals where they think that a bilingual suffers deficiency in both languages. As a result he or she tends to switch between the languages. Also, Hoffmann (1991) mentions that some people believe that code-switching is an evident showing bilinguals' lack of full ability in using both languages. On the other hand, bilinguals themselves may consider code-switching as reason of 'laziness or sloppy language habits' (Baker & Jones, 1998, p.58), however studies show that code-switching is a highly regarded linguistic strategy which is not randomly occurred, but due to significant purposes (Baker & Jones 1998) and Hoffmann (1991), states that in the bilingual speech, research sees code-switching as the most creative aspect.

Haugen (1977) cited in Romaine (1995, p. 291) mentions that in the USA, a Norwegian visitor commented on the Norwegian language spoken by an immigrant and he said 'Strictly speaking, it is no language whatever, but a gruesome mixture of Norwegian and English, and often one does not know whether to take it humorously or seriously.' This example indicates how people's attitudes towards code-switching vary where some of them have negative views towards it and they do not accept mixing two languages when speaking to them, because they may find it irritating or a way of destroying the purity of a language by adding words from another language. While other groups of people see code-switching positively and they consider the use of two languages within a conversation as being prestigious.

Heredia & Brown (n.d.) declare that bilingual students mix their languages when they do not master both languages completely. While bilinguals are speaking, they attempt to compensate for the unknown words of one language by using words from the other language. These could be related to some views towards code-switching, which have been mentioned in the second paragraph of this section. However, Heredia & Brown (n.d.) affirm that psycholinguists recently have conducted studies spotlighting the idea of the normality of code-switching. They regard bilinguals' mixture of their languages as a natural phenomenon of having two languages.

Furthermore, Heredia & Brown (n.d.) highlight that the prevalence of languages is another crucial factor in code switching. Astonishingly, some researchers believe that bilinguals frequently code switch the words while communicating in their first language rather than their second language. Bilinguals speaking Spanish and English show a lot of code-switching in their communication in their mother tongue Spanish, while they slightly code switch when they speak their second language English. More amusingly, some psycholinguists contend that bilinguals, speaking English as a second language, can retrieve English interfered words faster than monolingual individuals. To explain this finding, researchers maintain that once bilinguals become fluent, accurate and proficient in the second language due to the ongoing use of it, they start to shift their languages. The second language becomes more available and ready to be used as if it had taken the first language role. To explain the reason behind bilinguals' dependence on the second language, researchers go back to the previous point regarding language dominance. As English language is more common and prevailing than Spanish, it should be retrieved first. Bilinguals depend on their first language in the first stages of bilingualism, but they start to depend on the second language more than their first language in communication.

I assume bilinguals' dependence on the second language is a major criticism of bilingualism. Bilinguals start to shift their languages, and they depend on their second language in retrieving switched words. Consequently, they lose their proficiency in speaking their first language. The various reasons why foundation year students at HCT use code-switching and the Omani society's attitudes towards this phenomenon will be discussed in the following chapter and according to the data founded.

2.6.2 Functions of Code-switching.

According to Sert (n.d.), even though bilinguals may unintentionally shift their two languages, language interference bears some beneficial or detrimental functions. Sert (n.d.) asserts that students may shift their language due to their incompetence in the second language. They try to compensate for their deficiency by bringing the equivalent words in the other language. Therefore, code switching is considered a way to resume the communication when bilinguals do not know certain words in a language. While bilinguals are communicating in the target language, they may code switch by using words from their home language in order to avoid stopping their communication. However, this language shift may negatively affect the competence in the target language as bilinguals do not bother themselves to look for unknown words of the target language. Furthermore, code switching can be used to clarify or highlight a message. The speakers may deliver the message, but it is not perceived correctly, so the speaker may code switch it to the other language. Sert (n.d.) pretends that bilinguals also code switch language if they want to portray indirect meaning such as undesirable insults. In other words, bilinguals may shift to the other language in uttering insolent words, so the monolingual individuals do not understand those words. This idea reminds me with one of our prophet Mohammed's Hadiths which says that if you know other's language, you can protect yourself from their offensiveness.

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