Wichita State University | Published: 15 March, 2008
ISSUE 3 | Pages: 29-41 | PDF | DOAJ | https://doi.org/10.24162/EI2008-2959
2008 by Tina Bennett-Kastor | This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged for access.
Code-mixing and code-switching are common and well-documented processes in the speech of multilingual persons. Where multilingual persons are also literate in each language, code-mixing is also possible in writing. Despite conservative pressures which tend to deem only one of the languages in a linguistic repertoire the prestige variety, and therefore the primary choice for written expression, multiliterate authors who are able to assume a multiliterate readership may use two or more languages in their texts. Some theories of code-mixing are here summarized, along with a review of code-mixing in spoken Irish. Examination of code-mixing in modern and contemporary Irish literary texts shows that, structurally, written code-mixing is for the most part similar to what is observed in spoken language. Functionally, however, written mixing often has wider aims. Because writing is a planned and conscious form of language, multilingual writers utilize their greater linguistic repertoires strategically by imbuing different languages with different symbolic meanings. A full appreciation of such texts requires an understanding not just of the languages involved, but also of their functions in the cultural environment and the historical, political, and cultural associations with the other languages.
El cambio de lengua y la mezcla de lengua son procesos comunes y bien documentados en el habla de las personas multilingües. Cuando las personas multilingües son alfabetizadas en múltiples lenguas, es posible que en la escritura encontremos una mezcla de las lenguas. A pesar de las presiones conservativas que tienden a considerar como variedad de prestigio a sólo una de las lenguas en un mismo repertorio lingüístico, y por lo tanto como primera opción de la expresión escrita, los autores alfabetizados en varias lenguas que son capaces de captar la atención de lectores también alfabetizados en varias lenguas pueden utilizar dos o más lenguas en sus textos. Aquí resumidas, encontraréis varias teorías de cambio de lengua, junto con una revisión de la mezcla de lenguas en irlandés oral. Una revisión de la mezcla de lenguas en los textos irlandeses modernos y contemporáneos muestra que, estructuralmente, la mezcla de lengua escrita es, mayoritariamente, similar a lo que se ha observado en la lengua oral. No obstante, funcionalmente, la mezcla escrita a menudo tiene objetivos más amplios. Como la escritura es una forma planeada y consciente del lenguaje, los escritores multilingües utilizan sus mejores repertorios lingüísticos estratégicamente imbuyendo distintas lenguas con distintos significados simbólicos. Para una apreciación cabal de tales textos se precisa no sólo la comprensión de las lenguas involucradas sino también de sus funciones en el contexto cultural, y de sus asociaciones históricas, políticas y culturales con otras lenguas.
Escritura multilingüe; Alfabetismo bilingüe; Textos de alfabetismo bilingüe; Mezcla de lengua escrita; Cambio de lengua
Abundant research has explored language contact and its manifestations in spoken language, yet much less has focused on phenomena associated with language contact in written texts. Nevertheless, in many parts of the world, multilingual authors have taken advantage of the greater linguistic choices available to them and used them artfully, as it were, to convey layers of meaning which will resonate with their multilingual readers. In situations of language contact, a sizeable portion of the population may be multiliterate – literate in more than one of the languages involved in the contact. It is this type of literacy which is inclined to manifest language mixing of various sorts.
Despite the relative neglect of multiliteracy and specifically of language mixing in written texts, it is by no means a recent phenomenon. Adams et al. (2002) comprises chapters on numerous cases throughout the ancient world of inscriptions in which languages have been mixed to one degree or another, in some cases even languages with different scripts. Constant linguistic and cultural contact in the ancient world produced many cases of code-mixing in written form, from funerary inscriptions and other monuments, on the one hand, to texts by such scholars as Pelagonius (Langslow 2002: 37) and Cicero (Swain 2002: 137-138) on the other hand, as well as in parts of the Bible, e.g., in the Book of Daniel, “mene, mene, tekel, parsin” (5:25, NIV ); the Gospel of Mark, “Talitha koum” (Mk. 5:41,NIV); or the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, “Marana tha!” (16:22,NIV).
Structural categories of mixing and switching
Given the existence of such texts, one must ask in what circumstances and for what purposes written mixing is called into play. Are these similar to what one observes in speech? Pieter Muysken has distinguished cases oflexical borrowing from code-mixing, the use of lexical and/or grammatical features from more than one language within the same sentence; and code-switching, the “rapid succession of several languages in a single speech event.” (1). Code-mixing and switching may consist ofinsertion, i.e., placing “material (lexical items or entire constituents) from one language into a structure from the other language”; alternationbetween different structures; and congruent lexicalization, which places “material from different lexical inventories into a shared grammatical structure” (3). Insertion is akin to spontaneous borrowing; alternation is a “true switch from one language to another, involving both grammar and lexicon”; and congruent lexicalization occurs when the two languages are sufficiently similar in lexicon and/or grammatical structure – perhaps even containing homophonous elements – such that the point of switch is ambiguous (Muysken 2000: 5-6).
Adams et al., working with ancient inscriptions, generated their own list of contact phenomena, including some which are parallel to spoken phenomena. These from a continuum of 1) insertion of “ritual words, aphorisms, tags” from L1 to L2 text (7), which is not necessarily indicative of bilingualism any more than an English speaker’s use of il va sans direindicates fluency in French; 2) translation, where two (or more) texts appear in the same location, both conveying the same meaning – as in the Rosetta Stone –, or “alloglottography”, where the L1 is used “to represent an utterance in another language (L2) …in such a way that the original utterance in L2 can be accurately and unambiguously recovered from the document in L1” (Langslow 2002: 44); and 3) diglossia, where the bilingualism of a text reflects a society that is already bilingual, perhaps differentiating between high (H) and low (L) varieties, and unfolds according to functional differentiation, domain, or some other principle.
Functional categories of mixing and switching
While the diglossic principle is in some ways a functional explanation, what “other principles” might explain an author’s conscious use of material from another language? The literature suggests some purposes. The less dominant languages may be written, but without formal recognition or the imprimatur of legitimacy. In these cases, the writer who sneaks nondominant languages into texts – and usually this writer is a native speaker of a nondominant language – may be performing an act of subversion that might even be viewed as a kind of treachery. Unlike the conversational discourse of multilinguals, in which languages are invariably encroaching upon one another in various ways, the written word in its conservatism, as symbolic of power and learning, has in history often sought to be “pure” of extra- and interlinguistic effects, an idealized language which is usually not, or not any longer, a truly native dialect. This subversive use may come to be exploited toward various ends, as it was in the Spanish-English code-switching of Latino and Latina writers to signify their bi-cultural identity (Kraver 1997). Another language can also serve as an assertion of nationalism, particularly where the language in question has had to “go underground”, as it were, in the face of hegemony from a colonial tongue; or it may serve to signify the writer’s identity as “other” than mainstream and a rejection of the values associated with the dominant language; or in some cases the “other” language may even be a marker of prestige, as in the case of Cicero’s use of Greek (Swain 2002: 138), or as it would in contemporary writings in modern languages which include portions of Latin and Greek .
Less dominant languages may also be used where the text is largely in the H language, but particular characteristics associated with the L varieties allow code-switching to transfer these characteristics to a character, concept, or event depicted in the text. As well, semantic associations with a no longer dominant language may dictate switching, as in the case of the Channel islands of Guernsey and Jersey, where formal and ceremonial functions, such as legal proceedings, required the use of Standard French, for which an English translation then had to be supplied (Price 191). In this case, the function of the code-switching is purely historical in nature.
Multilingualism and Multiliteracy in Ireland
In Ireland, the sociolinguistic context in which code-switching and mixing may occur is not yet one of an integrated and full bilingualism. Except in specific speech communities, the use of Irish and English tends to be parallel, and despite the potential for robust multiliteracy, publication is still overwhelmingly in English, albeit with Irish (and occasionally other languages) mixed in. Those writers who use literate Irish habitually often must be subsidized to make up for the limited market. On the other hand, where the continuum of multiliteracy ranges from one extreme of speakers who cannot read or write in either language, to a middle position of speakers able to write only in one language but not the other, to a more typical diglossic multiliteracy in which speakers are (supposedly) biliterate, but the languages are functionally differentiated, Ireland is closer to the diglossic end. Thus, failure to write in the L variety (here, in one view, Irish) is a constraint easily broken by innovators. These innovations probably began first in informal contexts, and were then expanded by a minority of writers into formal works.
In the last two decades the renaissance of literature in Irish has reclaimed the older literary tradition, allowing for an examination of 1) whether code-mixing and switching occurs in texts utilizing Irish as the primary code; 2) whether code-mixing and switching occurs in texts using English as the primary code; and 3) what such deliberate weaving of English into Irish text and of Irish into English text represents. Here, we will be examining examples of Irish literary texts which exhibit language mixing, which are written by multilingual authors (i.e., authors literate in two or more languages), and which assume a multilingual audience and are therefore examples of multiliteracy. After briefly examining theories and data pertaining to code-switching and mixing in spoken language, and code-switching in spoken Irish in particular, we will explore the dimensions of mixing in sample texts to determine which structural categories of language interaction are fitting for analysis of literary language, and what functional categories best allow us to understand the authors’ purposes in mixing languages.
II. Code-switching in theory and practice
The linguistic phenomena of code-switching and code-mixing have been examined from both theoretical and descriptive perspectives beginning in the 1960’s when Ferguson published his seminal work on diglossia (1959, 1964), noting that “in many speech communities, two or more varieties of the same language are used by some speakers under different conditions” (1964: 429). In this case, the code-switching involves the specialization of different dialects, deemed high (H) – i.e., prestigious – and low (L), for different functions, and thus the code-switching is what Blom and Gumperz termed “situational” (1972: 424) and is distinct from code-mixing. Ferguson notes that such switching has no doubt existed for millennia although had been seldom mentioned prior to the publication of his work. “Metaphorical” code-switching is also possible. In this case, changes in situation do not elicit the switch, but rather changes in topic, subject-matter, or social event, such as occurs when an exchange of greetings is in the L variety and is then followed by a business transaction in the H (Blom and Gumperz 1972: 425).
Code-switching may extend past varieties such as dialects to encompass different languages in speech communities which are bi- or multilingual. If one of the languages is considered prestigious and associated with a literary tradition, the languages are differentiated functionally and the situation is known as “extended diglossia” (Fishman 1980). Viewing the situation inIreland as a case of such typical functional differentiation is problematic, however, since both English and Irish have enjoyed a literary tradition at various points in history. On the other hand, there are multilingual communities which are not diglossic per se, but code-switch for purely practical or even polite reasons. Salisbury (1962) describes the Siane of New Guinea as people who prize languages and make an effort to learn as many as possible; they use one language or another according to circumstances such as the language of the person to whom they are talking. The Irish might also be viewed as falling into this category. A third explanation is that code-switching may be compensatory, as when elements of one language substitute for those beyond a person’s fluency in the other (cited in Leiwo 2002: 172). This explanation of switching is viewed skeptically by, for example, Muysken (2000), although this author has both personally observed speakers switching languages under such conditions and has done so herself.
Code-switching is thus the shifting of an individual speaker from one variety—dialect, language—to another at a distinct “switch-point” which marks the transition from one context to another, as from one type of speech event to another (such as greetings versus business transaction), one type of participant to another (intimate versus superior), or one type of topic to another. Code-mixing, in contrast, is the use of one language in the midst of another within a speech event and even within a sentence, phrase, or word. It is sometimes referred to as “intrasentential switching.”As noted above, Muysken describes these kinds of insertions at the word-level as “spontaneous borrowing,” which must be distinguished from the kinds of borrowed words and phrases which are considered a part of the lexicon even of most monolingual speakers.
Descriptions of code-mixing abound, although explanations are rarer. Theories have focused on the characteristics of switch-points with the idea, presumably, of predicting potential code-mixes. Muysken summarizes and offers critiques of some of these theories. In their specific detail they go beyond the purpose of the current work, relying as they do on elements of contemporary syntactic theory such as a government and binding framework, but they do illuminate some of the problems which must be treated if a adequate explanation of the principles underlying code-mixing is the be formulated.
An early attempt at developing explanatory principles for code-switching was Shana Poplack’s (1980) study of Spanish-English switching by a community of Puerto Ricans. She proposed the notion of linear equivalence: the two languages involved have to have equivalent grammatical word order both before immediately before and immediately after the switch point.
This would seem to preclude certain switch locations in Irish-English mixes since Irish is verb-initial and English subject-initial, Irish subject and object are adjacent but they are separated in English, and Irish noun phrases are typically in noun-adjective order and those of English adjective-noun (but see below). She claimed that code-switching can be defined as the juxtaposition of sentences or parts of sentences, each of which is internally consistent with its own language.
Among the more recent explanations is The Matrix Language Frame (MLF) theory of Carol Myers-Scotton (1993; also Myers-Scotton and Jake 1995), which includes sociolinguistic as well as strictly structural factors. She describes code-switching (in many cases, she uses this term to include mixing) as typically being a marked choice, but the members of a speech community have a shared knowledge of the conditions under which the various codes (here, languages) are marked or unmarked in specific situations. Intrasentential switching tends to reflect situational informality and have a positive and unmarked function. Structurally, Myers-Scotton distinguishes between a matrix language (ML) and an embedded language (EL). Code-switching (mixing) follows either the “morpheme-order principle” or the “system morpheme principle.” The former maintains that is the ML which dictates the order of words or morphemes; the latter maintains that the “system” morphemes – i.e., function morphemes – come from the matrix language and content morphemes may come from the EL only if they are “congruent” with ML content morphemes, i.e., “having the same status in both languages, taking or assigning the same thematic roles, and having equivalent pragmatic or discourse functions” (Muysken 2000:17). The EL and ML are separated psycholinguistically, however, as “islands.”
The MLF model has been criticized for its rigidity of the notion of ML while at the same its unclear definitions of system versus content morphemes and of congruence, and less than full explanation of psycholinguistic factors such as the existence of “compromise strategies” that speakers use to avoid incongruencies between the ML and the EL, although other models have been equally criticized along similar lines” (Muysken 18). In the case of Irish-English switching, the ML and EL are often somewhat interchangeable.
Although not a fully adequate theory, the MLF model shows what a theory of code-mixing must take into account. These are the structural constraints – grammatical or lexical features that make insertion or alternation at a given point feasible; the sociolinguistic constraints – the conditions under which, in a given speech community, switching or mixing is marked or unmarked; and the psycholinguistic constraints – the abstract and cognitive representations of morphemes belonging to separate languages as being somehow “congruent” enough to be mutually substituted.
Muysken’s development of code-switching and mixing explanations utilizes the concepts of insertion, alternation, and congruent lexicalization. His category of insertional code-switching includes three properties: the Adjacency Principle that “if in a code-mixed sentence two adjacent elements are drawn from the some language, an analysis is preferred in which at some level of representation (syntax, processing) these elements also form a unit” (2000: 61); that what is switched tends to form a constituent, i.e., “any syntactic unit, either a lexical item (e.g., a noun) or a phrase (e.g., a prepositional phrase)” (61); and finally, switched elements are usually content rather than function words (63), a property compatible with both Poplack and Myers-Scotton. Alternation is more likely to have occurred when elements from a language A both precede and follow an element from a language B which is not structurally related. Muysken argues that length and complexity also come into play, since as the number of “words the switched element contains” increases, or the more complex the switched fragment is, the more likely it is to an alternation rather than an insertion.” Furthermore, the “activation of a matrix language” probably “decreases as the number of words in the intrusive language is larger” (97). As for congruent lexicalization, it is more likely to occur in speech communities where either “
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