Sociolinguistics


Central Factors Involved in Code-Switching

Code selection in multilingual speech communities depends on the situation or domain of use:

In general, the speaker's choice between different linguistic varieties in both monolingual and multilingual speech communities is not a random decision but is motivated by various social factors. The reasons for code-switching are very complex.

For example, a change in the character of the speech situation Ė the social context of interaction - can affect a speakerís code selection. Thus a change in a particular factor, e.g. location (physical setting), participants or topic can bring about a change in code. This is called situational code-switching.

A change in the physical setting may trigger a code switch because obviously, there is a difference if a speaker has a conversation at home with a close friend or family member or whether the speaker addresses his/her teacher at school. This example also shows that a change in code happens to account for changed status relations between the participants of a conversation. Apart from signalling status relationships, an addressee-dependent code switch can express solidarity. Thus, it can show shared group membership or shared ethnicity. A code switch then can be used to emphasize a speakerís ethnic identity. Likewise a change in conversational topic may trigger a code switch. In bilingual/multilingual communities certain topics are often typically discussed in one code while other topics are dealt with by using another code.

Additionally, code-switching may also occur in affective functions, i.e. in order to express particular emotional states such as anger or annoyance.

Sometimes skilled bilinguals/multilinguals perform what is termed metaphorical switching: code switching for rhetorical reasons.


The term 'Domain'