Code-switching and Multilingualism

Jenanne K. Ferguson

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online February 2018 | | DOI:
Code-switching and Multilingualism

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One of the central discussions in studies of multilingual communities and societies has been how to classify and understand patterns of code-switching or code-mixing—using two or more codes or language varieties within an exchange. Code-switching does not only happen between two different recognized languages but may happen between dialects, registers, or styles of one ‘language,’ however, it has been studied primarily within bi- or multilingual contexts. The terms “code-mixing” and “code-switching” (also written as “codemixing” and “codeswitching”) may be used at times as catch-all terms for any kind of linguistic alternations, whereas other scholars make a distinction between them. As Muysken 2000 (cited under Typologies and Meanings) notes, some separate them by denoting that switching happens intersententially (at the sentence or clause boundary), while mixing occurs intrasententially (within the sentence or clause). In other words, code-mixing may involve a greater degree of mixing than code-switching, which is thereby conceived of as a more discrete shift. In this entry, I endeavor to use what authors themselves use, and highlight where some make key distinctions in the phenomena. While many of the general overviews listed here present mixing and switching from a variety of analytical angles, they do not provide more than a cursory discussion of the grammatical, psycholinguistic, and cognitive aspects of code-mixing; these are part of an approach located within the field of linguistics. Due to the differing historical patterns of the development of the anthropology and its component subfields, we find both sociolinguists and linguistic anthropologists conducting research that foregrounds the social—or sociolinguistic—meanings of code-switching/code-mixing. This entry aims to foreground this approach to code-switching and code-mixing and assumes that these linguistic alternations are socially indexical to some extent. Thus, the most attention is paid to how switching and mixing are shaped by speakers’ diverse language ideologies and may also possess multiple functions in a given interaction, rather than to grammatical constraints and consequences of mixing. Closely linked to investigations of code-mixing and switching are broader theorizations of what multilingualism means and how it should be approached or studied ethnographically. While the first sections of this entry discuss codemixing-related phenomena and debates, the later sections deal with recent ethnographies and approaches to understanding multilingual societies in the context of mobility and globalization.

Article.  11778 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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