Bilingual Speakers of English and Korean and Code Switching Practice

By Shim, Jenna | International Journal of Education, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Bilingual Speakers of English and Korean and Code Switching Practice


Shim, Jenna, International Journal of Education


Abstract

The focus of this paper is to further understand the sociological tradition of language through the analysis of language alternation behaviors among bilingual speakers, namely Korean-English conversational code-switching. The paper investigates how and in what ways the code-switches are used as a linguistic resource to accomplish particular social and communicative functions as well as how and in what ways cultural-social meanings, such as social hierarchy, are both conditions for and reproduced in code-switches. The goal of this study is to look beyond the boundaries of a particular communicative event and study the affordances that bring the particular code-choices to the present moment. The paper also explores, through the analysis of particular micro-events, that within the constraints and prefabrications in which each participant operate, the possibility that people have of re-fabricating and re-synthesizing the pre-conditions that they are socialized into as they engage in an active and creative process of language practices production.

Keywords: code-switching; bilingual speakers; communicative events

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1. Introduction

The relation between language and society is an ongoing concern in sociolinguistics, and it is now taken for granted that language practice should not be treated as an abstract category but as a socially/historically constituted and deeply contextualized phenomenon. Halliday (1975) contends that language did not develop because of one language user but because of two or more language users and because they wanted to communicate; thus, implying that communication is a social activity requiring the coordinated efforts of two or more individuals to get things done. Hence, longstanding sociolinguistic tradition argues that accounts of the language study must begin from the social-situational grounding on the language usage and practice (e.g., Gumperz, 1968, 1982; Blom & Gumperz, 1972; Hymes, 1967, 1974, 2001), expanding beyond structural analysis of grammatical systems and eschewing the more static views of linguistic competence as an abstract potential explained by generative theory (e.g., Chomsky, 1965).

Furthermore, to say that language practice is inherently social in nature is, then, also to say that it is socially constructed; therefore, the constitutive relations between social factors and language in use are inevitable. To this end, understanding that the societal context that constructs the language practice itself is historically constructed by real individuals over time (Thompson, 1990) leads to an understanding that the society as a context and its meanings are always ideological (Todorov, 1984; Bakhtin, 1981, 1986). Bakhtin (1986) articulates that utterance is in part a product of the context of the utterance-a context that belongs to history, thus, indicating that our utterances are irreducibly heterogeneous and never neutral. Similarly, Gumperz (2001) claims that, "language is regarded as a set of rules enabling speakers to translate information from the outside world into sound (p.14). Gumperz explains that social categories are part of this outside world and though linguistic constraints operate largely below the level of consciousness, our language behavior is always enabled and constrained by outside world.

Thus, language in use, utterance, is the product of the interaction among interlocutors to accomplish social functions and negotiate social meanings at a micro-level intertwined with the whole complex macro social-historical situation in which it is embedded, thus no utterance in general can be attributed to the speaker exclusively (Bakhtin, 1981, 1986). These sociocultural and sociolinguistic views on language seem particularly educative and also true of hybrid text form (New London Group, 1996) like conversational code-switching in today's increasingly diverse and mobile world in which interactions across linguistics and cultural boundaries are multiplying. …

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