Code-Switching and Code-Mixing Between Related Varieties: Negotiating linguistic capital.

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Any attempt to tackle the intricacies of the host of phenomena collectively labelled as ‘code-switching’ inevitably stumbles across a series of theoretical and methodological problems. On the structural side, major issues include defining the matrix or base language(s) and identifying types of code-switching and relating them to potentially universal grammatical constraints. On the pragmatic side, the challenge is to relate types of code-switching to particular discursive functions, which are often localized and specific to individual speech events. On the sociolinguistic side, the challenge is to incorporate code-switching in an overarching model of language variation within particular speech-communities; to define its similarities and differences to other types of language variation that are part of speakers’ active repertoires; and to identify the emic functions of code-switching in relation to overarching categories such as (sociolinguistic status), the structuring of communal identities or of identities and allegiances within communities of practice, etc.

The construct of code-switching becomes even more problematic in cases of standard language-dialect continua such as the Cypriot Greek continuum examined in this paper. The methodological problem of determining whether code-switching between the standard language (Standard Modern Greek) and the dialect (Cypriot Greek) is actually at work in this particular speech community is compounded by the following factors:

(i) the genetic relation between the two varieties and the concomitant similarities/overlaps in phonology, morphology, syntax and lexis, which make it hard to establish a linguistic metric for determining whether code-switching is taking place, and if so, what its direction is;

(ii) an ongoing process of levelling and koineization, arguably expedited post-1974, whereby local idioms have receded in favor of an urban/metropolitan Greek Cypriot koiné, whose more formal registers display heavy admixtures from Standard Greek at the phonological, morphological, syntactic and lexical level; assuming that at least some part of the Greek Cypriot koiné is already structurally mixed further compounds the attempt to define code-switching on the basis of structural criteria;

(iii) the impact of koineization on the ongoing resolution of Greek Cypriot diglossia, which makes the notion of functional differentiation of the two varieties depending on classic constructs such as ‘domain’ of language use or ‘speech-event’ effectively irrelevant for interpreting code-switching.

This paper is a first attempt to shed some light on these issues; building on earlier work on koineization and register variation within the Greek Cypriot continuum (Terkourafi 2005, Tsiplakou et al 2006) as well as on sociolinguistic work on speaker attitudes towards the standard language and the dialect and the relation to these attitudes to status and identity formation, broadly conceived (Tsiplakou forthcoming), the attempt is made at drawing a structural distinction between switching between dialect and standard on the one hand and language alternation (cf. Auer 1999) in terms of dialect/continuum-internal register or stylistic variation. The second step is a conversation-analytic oriented attempt to relate particular types of switches to types of pragmatic functions in localized contexts. The data comprise two hour-long informal conversations among young educated peers and conversations among older educated peers in relatively formal settings, and they are supplemented by relevant tokens from personal observations of a host of other (varied) communicative situations involving the same participants. The analysis in terms of frames and discourse moves indicates that there is significant overlap between certain types of code-switching and certain types of continuum-internal style-shifting in terms of discursive function, but there are also instances where there is no such overlap; in these cases the directionality of the switch appears to be relevant. The findings indicate that constructs such as ‘linguistic capital’ and the linguistic negotiation of (sociolinguistic) identities take on a new slant when examined against the backdrop of situations of language contact, dialect levelling and the formation of dialect continua.

References Auer, Peter (1999) From code-switching via language mixing to fused lects: toward a dynamic typology of bilingual speech. International Journal of Bilingualism 3: 309-332. Terkourafi, M. (2005) Understanding the present through the past. Processes of koineisation in Cyprus. Diachronica 22: 309-372. Tsiplakou, S. (forthcoming). Linguistic attitudes and emerging hyperdialectism in a diglossic setting: young Cypriot Greeks on their language. In Yoquelet, C. (ed.) Berkeley Linguistic Society 29. Minority and Diasporic Languages of Europe. Tsiplakou, S., A. Papapavlou, P. Pavlou & M. Katsoyannou (2006) Levelling, koineization and their implications for bidialectism. In Hinskens, F. (ed.) Language Variation – European Perspectives. Selected Papers from the 3rd International Conference on Language Variation in Europe (ICLaVE 3), University of Amsterdam, 23-25 June 2005. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 265-276.


Keywords: Code-Mixing, Code-Switching, Dialect, Levelling, Koineization, Diglossia
Stream: Language, Linguistics
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Code-switching and Code-mixing between Related Varieties


Dr. Stavroula Tsiplakou

Assistant Professor, Department of Education, University of Cyprus
Nicosia, Cyprus

Stavroula Tsiplakou received her B.A. from the University of Athens in 1989; she holds an M.Phil. in Linguistics from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She has taught at the University of Hull in the U.K. (1995-1998) and at Simon Fraser University in Canada (1998-2001); currently she teaches at the Department of Education of the University of Cyprus. Her research areas include syntax, sociolinguistics and language acquisition.

Ref: H08P0271