A Case Study Of The Code Switching Patterns Essay.

A Case Study Of The Code Switching Patterns Essay.

The study investigates the use of Lithuanian and English and code-switching between the two in a family of Lithuanian-English bilinguals living in London. The data was collected by means of recording in the family home. The recording was then transcribed and analysed, allowing me to identify a number of features of the features of the language choice and code-switching patterns. These included convergence or divergence from the viewpoint of the previous speaker, lexical need, translation to allow for greater fluency in the conversation, trigger words and the perceived identity of the speaker.

I conclude from these observations that code-switching can be seen as a versatile and fluid phenomenon which allows the speaker greater freedom of expression and performs a number of functions, both social and pragmatic. The speakers use their languages to

This dissertation looks at bilingual conversations between family members in a family environment. The main focus of the work is the strategic use of code-switching. My particular interest is on how different members of the family use code-switching in order to express their national and individual identity and how this usage reflects their attitudes towards their languages.

Theoretical background to the study:


A fact frequently mentioned in bilingual studies is that over half the world is bilingual (Hoffmann 1991). However, patterns of individual language use within bilingual communities are diverse and it has been claimed that bilingualism is more common in unilingual countries (Mackey 1970). Lithuania has a high level of bilingualism with over 70% of the residents being multilingual (http://www.stat.gov.lt/en/). A Case Study Of The Code Switching Patterns Essay.

Language use is influenced by social circumstances, especially with regard to the communicative situation in which the language is employed. Bilingualism, however, is not automatically sustained without regular exchanges in the pertinent languages. (Ervin-Tripp and Reyes 2005). Languages amongst second generation immigrants seem to be maintained in strong correlation to the amount of exposure within the home. Mackey Bilingualism Reader page 35. The level of language proficiency and performance are affected by the intention of the speaker and the kinds of actions taken in order to satisfy that function.

The attitude of a speaker towards his or her language is a major factor in their language behaviour. A speaker who feels ashamed of his or her level of a particular language may use this less frequently or only use it in certain company. Certain languages carry political associations and can be unpopular for this reason -for example, Russian was unpopular in many countries in the Soviet Union. Bilingual immigrant children may associate their second language with that of their friends and social life and have a more positive outlook towards this (Lambert et al 1958 see Bilingualism a reader for ref).


Code-switching is remarkably common in language contact situations, especially within plurilingual societies. The majority of code-switching studies have concentrated on the social motivation behind the switches (e.g. Myers-Scotton 1993) in addition to grammatical or syntactical constraints or psychological mechanism (e.g. Grosjean 2001).

Alternation between languages seems to depend on a number of factors., including the conversational topic of the speaker, the person to whom he or she is speaking and the level of tension which he or she feels when taking part in the conversation – for example when very tired, nervous, or angry. Myers Scotton (1993) amongst others has pointed out that bilinguals use code-switching in order to make the greatest use of their linguistic repertoire. For many bilinguals this is a part of their daily life. In multilingual societies this would take place in a variety of contexts, but in the UK this is most commonly found at home in a family environment. For this reason the study focuses on a family conversation.

Age is a major factor for consideration in the study of language use within a family. For younger immigrants bilingualism can be a short process which can lead to the second language overtaking the first if home is the only environment in which the first language is utilised. (Tits 1959 see bilingualism reader for ref). The study of younger immigrants is specialised as their stability in their first language needs to be considered whereas with older immigrants their first language is far more fixed and stable. A Case Study Of The Code Switching Patterns Essay.

1.1.2 Lithuania and the Lithuanian language

According to the Office for National Statistics (www.statistics.gov.uk), an estimated 74,000 Lithuanians lived in the UK in 2010.

Lithuania became independent from the Soviet Union in 1990 and became a member of NATO and the European Union in spring 2004. Since Lithuanian independence many changes have taken place and popular culture is highly influenced by Western Europe and the USA. An important change regarding language is that many young people are now able to speak English or another foreign language, and have little knowledge of the Russian language. In Soviet times the very large majority of the population was fluent in Russian. More than 70% of Lithuanians living in Lithuania in September 2012 are bi- or multilingual. (http://www.stat.gov.lt/en/) Russian is still the most widely spoken second language with English now the second. (Statistics Lithuania 2008).

The total worldwide Lithuanian-speaking population is estimated at about 3,100,000 (2011, http://www.indexmundi.com/lithuania/demographics_profile.html), about 2.9 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 200,000 abroad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithuanian_language). The Lithuanian language is a Baltic language which has been influenced by both Russian and Finnish, but retains many pure features of archaic Indo-European. The Russian language was particularly influential during the period of Soviet rule. Lithuanian is an inflectional language with seven cases and is gendered. The Lithuanian alphabet consists of 32 letters in the Latin alphabet using diacritical marks. There are two main dialects which differ significantly from each other: Aukštaičių (Aukštaitian, Highland Lithuanian) and Žemaičių/Žemaitiu (Samogitian, Lowland Lithuanian). The family studied here speak standard or Highland Lithuanian.

1.1.3 Key terms


Definitions of bilingualism vary greatly. Bloomfield (1933) describes it as: ‘native-like control of two languages’. However, this focus on the level of proficiency in each language does not refer to the use or function performed by the language. Definitions which are based on function take into account the fact that language is a communicative tool rather than an abstract entity. Weinreich (1953) describes bilingualism as: ‘The practice of alternately using two languages’. Els Oksaar (1983) takes function and proficiency into account in her definition of ‘the ability of a person to use here and now two or more languages as a means of communication in most situations and to switch from one language to the other if necessary’ (p. 19). Hoffmann (1991) points out that bilingualism is relative, and although there have been many attempts to define it, none of these is equally valid. She suggests that a useful approach could be to form a bilingual profile for each individual, accounting for variables such as the language development and maintenance of the languages, their sequential relationship, the competence in each, functional aspects, linguistic features, attitudes and environmental circumstances. A Case Study Of The Code Switching Patterns Essay.

The term ‘balanced’ bilingual is used to describe a speaker who has equal command of both languages. However, Fishman et al (1971) point out that this situation is rare.



Bilinguals who are equally fluent in both languages (as measured by their facility and correctness overall) are rarely equally fluent in both languages about all possible topics; this phenomenon is invariably a reflection of the fact that societal allocation of functions is normally imbalanced and in complementary distribution rather than redundant (Fishman et al, 1971, in MacSwan, 1999: 30) .


Definitions of code-switching vary significantly between researchers. ‘Code’ is generally used as a synonym of ‘language’, although there is some debate on this point, Jakobson distinguishing between the two terms, asserting that languages do not consist of codes, but rather contain them (Jakobson 1971). Some see code-switching as being the insertion of whole utterances in a non-dominant language between sentences (Dahl, Rice et al. 2010). ‘Borrowing’ generally refers to the insertion of a word or phrase within a sentence while retaining the syntax of the matrix language. ‘Code-mixing’ However, there is little evidence at present that there is a significant difference between these types, and many see the difference as best expressed in terms of a continuum (Clyne 2000). Jeanine Treffers-Daller (1994- linguistic c-s) points out that many researchers see a difference between instances of code-switching and ‘transfer’ or ‘interference’ – both of these terms referring to the influence of one language on another. However, she argues that these can be seen as similar as they involve the occurrence of aspects of one language in a section of another language. In the current work, the term ‘code-switching’ will be used in its broadest sense to refer to the use of two or more languages used within a conversation or utterance, whether this be inter- or intra-sententially, unless a particular term is used by another researcher cited here.

Throughout this work I will refer to inter-sentential and intra-sentential code-switching – switches which occur between sentences or within them respectively as originally defined by Polack (1980). A Case Study Of The Code Switching Patterns Essay.

Crossing (also ”language crossing’ or ‘code-crossing’) refers to the use of a language or variety which isn’t generally thought to ‘belong’ to the speaker (Rampton, 1997, in Auer 1998P. Auer (ed) 1997/98 Code-switching in Conversation: Language, Interaction and Identity (London: Routledge)

Creolization is used here to mean the formation of a Creole language from the contact of a European language with a local language: http://oxforddictionaries.com

Native speaker when used in this project refers to a person who has spoken the language in question from earliest childhood (http://oxforddictionaries.com).


This is an ethnographic study using data obtained from naturally occurring speech of three bilinguals of differing levels of proficiency. The family were chosen as they are all first generation immigrants, bi- or tri-lingual and are integrated into British society while still retaining a sense of their Lithuanian identity through their visits to Lithuania and contact with Lithuanian friends and family. The mother, when collecting her son from school when he was about 5 years old, overheard him asking a friend: ‘Did you know that I am half-Lithuanian?’ She then questioned him about why he thought he was only half Lithuanian when both his parents were Lithuanian. He answered that he was Lithuanian when he was at home because of his parents, but at school he was English because he spoke English there, and he knew he wasn’t 100% Lithuanian, as he could not speak the language fluently. This ‘biculturalism’ opens debate concerning the choice and use of language to broader issues such as identity. Oksaar (1983) argues that an immigrant’s two languages usually perform distinct tasks and the distribution of the languages in relation to the cultural spheres may be a decisive factor for the immigrant’s degree of integration.

This study aims to investigate how the level of proficiency in a language affects the code-switching patterns in this family and how the family members use their linguistic repertoire to express their identity as Lithuanian, English, or both. No attempt will be made in this work to examine grammatical restraints or features beyond a very basic level.

Research Questions

What are the language choices and code-switching patterns of the subjects in a family environment?

Do the language choice and code-switching reflect on the proficiency level of the language used?

What are the functional purposes of the code-switching?

How are the individuals’ attitudes towards the two languages and their own identity reflected in their language behaviour?

The first of these questions provides a general background on which the other questions are based. The second question relates the language choice and code-switching to the level of proficiency that the subjects have in the languages. Question 3 looks at the reasons behind the code-switching. Lastly, the final question examines if there is a relationship between the attitude of the individual and their language choices

1.4 Hypotheses

That there is a correlation between the language choice and code-switching patterns of the speaker and their level of proficiency in that language.

That the mother of the family, being the most ‘balanced’ bilingual, will code-switch more frequently than the other two members of the family

That the code-switching functions to facilitate understanding between all three members of the family and reflect their identities

1.5 Conclusion

The structure of the paper is as follows:

Chapter 1 has described the study and its aims. It has also given a brief summary of the key ideas which will be investigated and the terms which will be used throughout. A Case Study Of The Code Switching Patterns Essay.

The second chapter will review the literature which I feel is relevant and of interest to the present study. This will examine the perspectives on code-switching analysis, starting with the Rational Choice analysis. It will then examine Conversation Analysis as a tool for the analysis of code-switching data. Chapter 2 will also deal briefly with studies which look at the level of proficiency of the speakers and how this affects code-switching.

The third chapter will describe the methodology used in the study including the research design issues and the positioning of the researcher. It will give an outline of the family background and history will then deal with the ethics, interviews and data collection which were carried out in order to conduct the research. A mention will also be made of the issues involved in data collection and the conventions used in the transcription as well as the methods used to analyse the data.

Chapter 4 will look at the analysis of the data, dealing primarily with the research questions. It will examine the language choices of the subjects and how these choices reflect on the proficiency level of the participants in each language. It will then examine when the family code-switch when interacting and what the functional purposes of the code-switching appear to be. There will then be a discussion of how the language choices reflect the individuals’ attitudes towards the two languages.

Chapter 5 concludes the study with a discussion of the implications of the findings and a summary of the research, looking at the limitations of the research and any further development required.

Chapter 2

Review of relevant literature what about FAMILY studies and what is special about them?


In this chapter the literature concerned with the phenomenon of code-switching is examined to provide a conceptual framework. Studies have been carried out in this area from psycholinguistic, grammatical or sociolinguistic perspectives. This literature review will concentrate only on the sociolinguistic studies as these relate most closely to the research carried out. I will firstly consider the different perspectives on code-switching analysis – Analyses based on the social connotations of the two languages and Conversation Analysis. I will then examine studies dealing with the level of proficiency of the speaker and how this affects code-switching practices. I will also briefly investigate studies of bilingual children before concluding by linking these studies to the study carried out here.

The last forty or fifty years have seen a profusion of research carried out into reasons for code-switching and the different manifestations of the phenomenon. Studies in this area can be conducted for their own sake, in order to demonstrate characteristic features of a language. Code-switching is also studied in order to look at grammatical features or constraints across languages or for cognitive processing purposes. In addition code-switching can investigate the ways in which identities, be these individual or group, can be formed and demonstrated. It can also give additional meaning to an utterance which cannot be attributed to the meaning of the sum of individual words (Gardner-Chloros 2009) A Case Study Of The Code Switching Patterns Essay.

Code-switching is a conversational tool requiring competence pragmatically and grammatically (Koppe and Meisel 1995). Reasons why code-switching takes place are varied and complex. It is assumed to be related to the situational parameters of conversational topic, participant roles or the speech event itself (Auer 1995). However, intra-sentential code-switching may serve the purpose of emphasis, quoting another person, or to indicate a change in the participant addressed. It can also be used to indicate convergence or divergence from the previous participant’s statement (Zhu 2008). Inter-sentential code-switching can be used to fill gaps in lexical knowledge or to for emphasis (Zentella 1997) or to ask or answer rhetorical questions among other reasons.

2.2 Perspectives on code-switching analysis

It is generally recognised that code-switching is meaningful from a social perspective. There are two broad schools of thought as to how this meaning is brought about. The first of these sees the choice of language as having a meaning, in terms of identity, views and values (Gumperz 1982, Myers-Scotton 1993). The other approach sees meaning as coming from the code-switching itself, that is, from within the conversation, rather than being reliant on external factors. This second approach concentrates on the sequences used and is generally studied using Conversational Analysis techniques. Increasingly researchers are favouring this second approach, as although it is widely acknowledged that social factors can play a significant role, this is not straightforward and cannot be assumed a priori (Cashman 2005, Williams 2005).

2.2.1 Analyses based on the social connotations of the two languages

Language can be seen in terms of a ‘we-code’ and ‘they-code’ (Gumperz (1982). The ‘we-code’ normally denotes a minority language linked to informal circumstances used by an ‘in-group’. The main community language, linked to formal circumstances, is a ‘they-code’. Typically in families in which the parents are immigrants to the UK, the parents will see their community language or mother tongue as the ‘we-code’ and English as the ‘they-code’. Their children, however, brought up in the UK, are likely to feel that English is their ‘we-code’ and to prefer to use this.

Gumperz (1982) sees code-switching as meaningful from a social identity perspective. He carried out a study in Norway examining the use of Ranamal – a local dialect, and Bokmal – the standard language variety. These shared many similarities but were considered by speakers to be distinct. This distinction was important in order for the varieties to fulfil social functions. The local dialect was used with family, and to express local cultural identity, while the more standard variety was used in education and in the media. Many people switched between these two varieties depending on the topic of the conversation – for example, an enquiry about family might be made in Ranamal, while Bokmal might be used while discussing business.

Zhu Hua (2008) points out that a large body of evidence now indicates that ‘there is no simple, one-to-one association between language and social values (p.1800) In an investigation into diasporic Chinese families in the UK, she examined the connection between social communication and socio-cultural values, focusing on code-switching between generations in ‘conflict talk’ – situations in which the speakers adopt different opinions on a subject. There appeared to be strategic language choices and positioning by the speakers. It appeared that code-switching functioned to focus the interactions between the speakers particularly when negotiating power relationships. Speakers showed convergence or divergence with the previous speaker’s view depending on their language choice – speakers answering in the language in which they were addressed were is likely to be showing convergence. A Case Study Of The Code Switching Patterns Essay.

Investigations into non-Western code-switching have found evidence refuting the idea of different languages being associated with different groups. Stroud (1998) looked at the use of Tok Pisin, a national language, and Taiap, spoken by a tiny minority. It was found that no particular domain, subject or speech variety was spoken about in one language only.

Rational choice analyses start from the basic standpoint of Gumperz (1982). The ‘Markedness Model’ of Myers-Scotton (1993) makes the assumption that one language variety is always unmarked in any situation and that social norms act as constraints to speakers. She studied African urban communities and saw a distinction between the theories of allocation, where language behaviour is affected by the structure of society, and interaction, in which a person makes a rational selection to achieve a specific purpose. The mother tongue of the Kenyans studied was used with others of the same ethnic background and appeared to be important in terms of identity. It was also used for assistance from other members of the same group. English was used at home by those more affluent economically as it was assumed that this would help the children with their school education. The ‘markedness’ idea is further developed in the Rational Choice Model (Myers-Scotton and Bolonyai 2001), which asserts that an unmarked choice is one in which the speaker chooses his or her language according to the conventions of the social norms. These norms can dictate that code-switching is in itself the choice which is unmarked. The Markedness Model appears to regard monolingualism as the starting point or norm and disregards variation between languages (Blommaert and Meeuwis 1998). The idea of ‘strategic’ code-switching is also criticised as many see code-switching as an unconscious occurrence (Woolard 2004).

This Rational Choice Model was employed by Alfaraz (2009) in a study of the use of Spanish and English in the Catholic mass. Quantitative analysis revealed a more frequent use of English than Spanish during the service, making English apparently the unmarked choice. On closer analysis, however, it could be seen that Spanish was used for the ritualistic areas of the service, making this the unmarked choice. Alfaraz asserted that pragmatic meaning was not conveyed though the directionality of switching in the data. Instead, code-switching seemed to be used to emphasise ‘contextual information equivalent to what in monolingual settings is conveyed through prosody or other syntactic or lexical processes’ (Gumperz 1982 p.98). An example of this is in the use of pauses, which when between code-switched passages were found to be almost two seconds shorter than those between monolingual passages in the data, pointing towards the switching being used as a reinforcement of the effect of the pause.

The Rational Choice Model assumes that choices are made between codes according to external values. However, more recent thinking about how meanings can be interpreted has asserted that they can be interpreted from the conversation itself without the necessity of relating to external norms. Li Wei (1998) argues that code-switching can be used to show the authoritative level of the speaker and their preference linguistically. A Case Study Of The Code Switching Patterns Essay.

2.2.3 Conversational analyses of code-switching see Nilep interactional section

Macro-sociolinguistic aspects of code-switching, while giving a useful insight, can never determine absolutely code-switching. Gumperz (1982) maintained that in order to define the functions of code-switching a close and detailed analysis of conversation is necessary. On the basis of this he identified a list of six functions (quotation marking, addressee specification, interjection, reiteration, message qualification, and ‘personalization versus objectivization’. This list has led on to many other similar attempts to identify a list of code-switching functions (Romaine 1989; Nishimura 1997; Zentella 1997). These lists are problematic, however, as there are often problems with definition, as Auer (1995) points out. Although these may provide some useful guidelines, they are inadequate as a complete answer to the functions that code-switching carries out.

.Auer (1984) claims that bilingual interaction is susceptible to local methods of language negotiation and code choice and is autonomous at one level from the larger ideological and societal structures to which it are related. Conversational analyses of code-switching focus on the actual interactions and the fulfilment of interactional goals which take place between the speakers rather than on external factors. Li Wei (2005) regards Conversation Analysis as an extension of Rational Choice analyses, but seeking ‘evidence from talk-in-interaction rather than from external knowledge of community structure and relations’ (p.375). Myers-Scotton and Bolonyai (2001) have criticised this approach for the emphasis on transcriptions techniques and lack of focus on motivational choices. Li Wei (2002) claims that the conversational analysis approach is often used without explicit reference to the reasons why, but that it can demonstrate the motivation and intentions of the speaker in addition to revealing the process of generating ordered activity .

Code-switching is commonly believed to be related to other manifestations of bilingual or multilingual behaviour rather than an isolated occurrence. ‘Translanguaging space’ covers a diversity of practices including code-switching, code-mixing, crossing and creolization. Li Wei (2010) studied the multilingual practices of three Chinese undergraduate maths students resident in Britain through ‘Moment Analysis’. This aims to capture seemingly spur-of-the-moment performances and to establish their causes and results. Speakers seemed to express their identities and create their own social spaces through utilization of the linguistic resources available to them. Translanguaging space can be a reflection of an individual’s identity and demonstrates the way individuals use their linguistic resources to create their own space, rather than responding to external factors.

Various patterns of interactions can be analysed in sequential code-switching Auer (1995). These can involve both the interlocutors speaking in different languages to each other, for example one person speaking consistently in English while the other replies in Lithuanian. However, this often leads to one interlocutor beginning to use the other language and becomes a monolingual conversation. When this pattern is seen it can indicate the preference of language by a speaker. It can also show the level of competence in a language (usually the speaker is more competent in his or her preferred language). It could indicate language choice for a social reason. Reyes (2004) states that code-switching can be used to extend communicative competence in situations where a single language is not adequate.

Milroy and Wei (1995) claim that interlocutors decide on a language and that code-switching occurs within this. This code-switching becomes interactional in that participants often choose to speak in the language which best suits their interlocutor (Milroy and Li Wei, 1995). Their study found that Chinese immigrants to the UK varied in their language practices according to age, with the older generation preferring to use their Chinese mother tongue, and the younger generation showing a preference for English. Code-switching within this appeared to be used for repetition and emphasis, clarification and confirmation, as well as making language repairs (this last only amongst the adults).

Critiques of Conversation Analysis claim that a focus too closely on conversation as the starting point for analysis in addition to not allowing macro-sociolinguistic evidence can result in unsatisfactory analysis of non-Western language behaviour. “[L]anguage use and patterns of code-switching both structure and are structured by indigenous cultural practices” (Stroud 1998 p.322). A Case Study Of The Code Switching Patterns Essay.

2.3 Code-switching and level of proficiency

Code-switching has traditionally been seen as the result of a lack of competence in one of the languages, or a practice which is lazy or inhibits language learning. Bullock and Toribio (2009) state that ‘it is .… perceived by the general public as indicative of language degeneration’ (Bullock and Toribio 2009 p.1). However, studies have shown that these viewpoints do not reflect the truth (Hughes, Shaunessy et al. 2006). By focusing on code-switching as a resourceful process, it is possible to see the ways in which languages are used for communication and to advance learning (Liebscher and Dailey-O’Cain 2005). Weinreich (1953) described an idealised bilingual speaker who would use both codes distinctly. However, Grosjean (1997) has asserted that neither language system of a bilingual can be fully deactivated. This implies that bilinguals generally differ in some way from monolinguals, even in their principal language. Even the concept of the ‘native speaker’ is now being challenged by code-switching practices (Gardner-Chloros 2009).

The issue of the level of proficiency of the speaker and the effect of this on code-switching has long been under debate. McClure (1977) noted that the use of code-switching changes with age. Younger children were seen to code-switch nouns whereas older ones switched phrases and sentences, thus indicating that there is a level of proficiency which must be reached for code-switching to take place. However, according to Myers-Scotton (1993), there is no clear level of proficiency that a speaker must obtain in a second language in order for code-switching to take place.

Code-switching has been seen as a strategy to cope with deficiencies in one or both of the languages (MacSwan 1999). These deficiencies were previously referred to as semilingualism (Cummins and Miramonte, 1989, in MacSwan, 1999) and were thought of as causing low academic achievement in multilingual children (Milroy and Muysken 1995, Tokuhama-Espinosa 2003). However, Li Wei (2000) points out that the term was used for ethnic minorities and not for the speakers of mainstream languages. Poplack (1980) was critical of the term for the implication that the speakers are not fully literate, and the stigma involved for those it referred to.

Romaine (1995) points out that:

‘Although it is popularly believed by bilingual speakers themselves that they mix or borrow because they do not know the term in one language or another, it is often the case that switching occurs most often for items which people know and use in both languages. The bilingual just has a wider choice – at least when he or she is speaking with bilingual speakers. In effect, the entire second language system is at the disposal of the code-switcher.’ (1995, p. 143)

A study carried out by Valadez, MacSwan and Martínez. A Case Study Of The Code Switching Patterns Essay.