Essay on Code Switching and Modern Language Mixing

Essay on Code Switching and Modern Language Mixing

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When Cultures and Languages Blend:
Traditional and Modern Instances of Code-Switching and Other Language Mixing

One of the most fascinating sociolinguistic phenomena in modern times is code-switching. This act occurs when a speaker or speakers switch from one dialect to another within a single conversation. It is similar to style-shifting, which involves a change in the level of formality between speakers. (Curzan, 266-269) The complexity of social interaction requires language users to adapt to changing needs in conversation. Typical and atypical shifts in language usage are evident in daily life. A conversation between two coworkers might be drastically different from a conversation between a manager and a supervisor. A conversation between friends who share the same two languages will likely vary from a conversation between two monolingual friends. And a letter to someone who lives only a short distance away will probably be dissimilar from a letter written to someone in a different region, country, or continent from the writer.

It is important to differentiate code-switching from the practices of borrowing and using loanwords. Such loaned or borrowed words are used by many speakers throughout a language, whereas code-switching happens in specific times and places. Code-switching can also be conscious or unconscious. While a word from a different language might be added for clarity, fluently bilingual speakers may switch between languages with little intention or purpose. Persons in multilingual communities tend to code-switch frequently and with little or no conscious effort. A code-switching speaker may simply speak the first word that comes to mind, regardless of which language provides the source. Code-switching is n...

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... and befuddle listeners. It is the job of the individual to ascertain what is appropriate in a given context and how well listeners can adjust to the conventions in spoken discourse or writing.

Works Cited

Curzan, Anne and Adams, Michael. How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction. New York: Pearson Longman, 2006

Crystal, David. The English Language: A Guided Tour of the Language. London: Penguin Books, 2002

Macionis, John J. Society: The Basics. 8th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Person Prentice Hall, 2006

Johnson, Edward D. The Handbook of Good English. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1982

"McWord" Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 13 November 2006.

"U.S. Navy slang" Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 14 November 2006.

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