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Code Switching
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Code Switching


 is switching between one or more language, or language variety, in the context of a single conversation. 


Multilinguals—people who speak more than one language—sometimes use elements of multiple languages in conversing with each other.

Thus, code-switching is the use of more than one linguistic variety in a manner consistent with the syntax and phonology of each variety.






Code Switching..cont'd


Refers to alternating between one or more languages or dialects.

It also occurs within a particular language. We use different forms of expression depending on the person we are speaking to and where we are speaking to that person. There are different degrees of formality and informality






syntax is also used to refer directly to the rules and principles that govern the sentence structure of any individual language, as in "the syntax of Modern Irish"




Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the systematic organization of sounds in languages.






 is a basic element of a spoken language or dialect, from which words in that language or dialect are analyzed as being built up.

The phoneme is defined by the International Phonetic Association as "the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances".[1]





Code Switching in a Bilingual Community Context


According to Trudgill, “speakers switch to manipulate or influence or define the situation as they wish, and to convey nuances of meaning and personal intention” (2000:105). Drawing upon this quotation, it may be suggested that code switching can be used for self expression and is a way of modifying language for the sake of personal intentions.

Another function of code switching is that it may be used in order to build intimate interpersonal relationships among members of a bilingual community. In this respect, it may be claimed that it is a tool for creating linguistic solidarity especially between individuals who share the same ethno-cultural identity. 



Code Switching Example: Bilingual Community


Sarah: I think everyone’s here except Mere.
    John: She said she might be a bit late but actually I think that’s her arriving now.
    Sarah: You’re right. Kia ora Mere. Haere mai. Kei te pehea koe?
                  (HI MERE. COME IN. HOW ARE YOU?)
    Mere: Kia ora hoa. Kei te pai. Have you started yet?
               (HELLO MY FRIEND. I AM FINE)


Following this example, it is observed that Sarah and Mere code switch from English to Maori during their conversation.

The language shift these people perform reflects their ethnic identity and functions as a bridge that builds solidarity among them, which is also related to the high intimacy level concerning their relationship.





Functions of Teacher Code Switching

by Mattson and Burenhult (1999:61)


Teachers may not always be aware of their code switching, in some cases it can be considered an automatic or unconscious behavior. 


1) Topic Switch: most common when introducing new grammar points in the classroom. 


At this point it may be suggested that a bridge from known (native language) to unknown (new foreign language content) is constructed in order to transfer the new content and meaning is made clear in this way as it is also suggested by Cole (1998): “a teacher can exploit students’ previous L1 learning experience to increase their understanding of L2”.

2) Affective Functionsserve for expression of emotions. In this respect, code switching is used by the teacher in order to build solidarity and intimate relations with the students. In this sense, one may speak off the contribution of code switching for creating a supportive language environment in the classroom.

3) Repetitive Functionhe teacher uses code switching in order to transfer the necessary knowledge for the students for clarity. Following the instruction in target language, the teacher code switches to native language in order to clarify meaning, and in this way stresses importance on the foreign language content for efficient comprehension.

 One negative aspect of this reinforcement given the native tongue is that the student may not listen attentively to the L2 instructions, but depend on the reinforcement on the L1. 




Functions of Students' Code Switching

 Eldridge (1996:305-307)


1) Equivalencestudent makes use of the native equivalent of a certain lexical item in target language and therefore code switches to his/her native tongue.

“Equivalence” functions as a defensive mechanism for students as it gives the student the opportunity to continue communication by bridging the gaps resulting from foreign language incompetence.

2) Floor-holdingDuring a conversation in the target language, the students fill the stopgap with native language use. It may be suggested that this is a mechanism used by the students in order to avoid gaps in communication, which may result from the lack of fluency in target language. 

3) Reiterationis pointed by Eldridge as: “messages are reinforced, emphasized, or clarified where the message has already been transmitted in one code, but not understood” (1996:306).

The reason for this specific language alternation case may be two-folds: first, he/she may not have transferred the meaning exactly in target language. Second, the student may think that it is more appropriate to code switch in order to indicate the teacher that the content is clearly understood by him/her.

4) Conflict control(meaning that the student tends to avoid a misunderstanding or tends to utter words indirectly for specific purposes)

- Code switching is a strategy to transfer the intended meaning. The underlying reasons for the tendency to use this type of code switching may vary according to students’ needs, intentions or purposes.

- Additionally, the lack of some culturally equivalent lexis among the native language and target language--which may lead to violation of the transference of intended meaning--may result in code switching for conflict control; therefore possible misunderstandings are avoided.





A Discussion on the Use of Code Switching in Language Classrooms






Cook (2002:333)

Skiba (1997) 








Cook: feels there are negative implications


- cautions use of code switching in multilingual classrooms, creating some potential problems- as some students will potentially feel left out, if the code switching occurs outside of their L1. 

 competence of the teacher in mother tongue of students also plays a vital role, if positive contributions of code switching are expected

Eldridge, suggests “the learners have no guarantee that their audience will share knowledge of their mother tongue” (1996:309). This perspective concerns the interaction of students with native speakers of the target language, as mutual intelligibility may not be possible if the learner switches his language during communication.




Skiba (1997) : code switching stands to be a supporting element in communication of information and in social interaction;


- Suggests that in the circumstances where code switching is used due to an inability of expression, it serves for continuity in speech instead of presenting interference in language.

- Serves for communicative purposes in the way that it is used as a tool for transference of meaning.

-Additionally, the functions of the teacher’s code switching as mentioned in III stand as supportive explanations for the strong sides of the phenomenon.

-Builds a bridge from known to unknown and may be considered as an important element in language teaching when used efficiently.

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