Code alternation/Switching

Code alternation/Switching?

Code alternation ( code-switching in English), or code change, is a linguistic term that refers to the use of two or more languages ​​in the same speech, sentence or phrase, without violating the phonological or syntactic rules of any of the languages. 1 Among speakers with knowledge of more than one language, the mixture, often unconscious, of several languages ​​in the same sentence is normal. A speaker can tell another a phrase like ” I’m sorry I cannot attend next week’s meeting because I have a business obligation in Boston, but I hope I’ll be back for the meeting the week after, ” which is changing from language unconsciously. The alternation differs from other phenomena of contact between languages ​​such as language loans , pidgins , Creole languages and traces .Loans affect the lexicon , the words that make up a language, while code alternation occurs at the level of the sentence . pidgins languages ​​are formed when two or more speakers do not have a common language and create one to communicate. On the other hand, the alternation of codes requires that speakers, whether bilingual or multilingual, have some verbal fluency in the languages ​​they speak.The term “code alternation” is also used outside the field of linguistics. Literature experts use the term to describe literary styles that include elements of various languages, as do writers of Chinese-American, Anglo-Indian or Latin novels. In popular use, code alternation sometimes refers to the informal but relatively stable mixture of two languages, for example, Spanish , Taglish or Hinglish. Both in popular use and in the study of sociolinguistics, the term “code alternation” may refer to alternations between dialects, styles or registers.This form of alternation is practiced, for example, by speakers of African American Vernacular English when they move from a less formal context to a more formal one.Such changes, when executed by public figures as politicians, are often criticized as inauthentic or unintentional.

The main formal characteristics of code alternation are:

  • It affects both lexical and grammatical levels.
  • It does not usually alter the morphosyntactic structure of the languages ​​in contact.
  • It is usual to change code in the middle of a sentence when the order of the elements in both languages ​​matches; when the languages ​​in contact are typologically different, the change is more problematic, although not impossible.
  • In the middle of a word it is not common to change from one code to another.
  • The order of morphemes is almost always determined by the base language.
  • Productive morphemes are generally of the base language.
  • The transition between one code and another is usually fluid, that is, without pauses, maintaining the rhythm and intonation.

The alternation of code, as we have said, is motivated by multiple circumstances and fulfills a wide range of functions in communication. Here are some of them:

  • indicate a change of subject or activity;
  • select a recipient from a group of listeners;
  • imitate, introduce a touch of humor;
  • create a pun;
  • cite (direct or indirect style);
  • make a marginal comment;
  • nuance or emphasize;
  • keep a secret with some (s) of the listeners;
  • practice a certain language;
  • boast a good level in the language in question
  • Sometimes the code is changed simply because there is no (or unknown) term, an expression, an equivalent saying in the base language.


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