LINGUIST List 11.1741

Mon Aug 14 2000

Sum: Code-switching in Movies

Editor for this issue: Lydia Grebenyova <>


  1. Jeff Siegel, Code-switching in movies

Message 1: Code-switching in movies

Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2000 11:33:46 +1000
From: Jeff Siegel <>
Subject: Code-switching in movies

For Query: Linguist 11.1603

Dear colleagues,

A few weeks back I posted a query about movies with good
examples of code-switching. The purpose was to find examples
to illustrate conversational code-switching to monolingual students.

Many thanks to the following people who responded:

Michelina Bonanno <>
Eric Breck <>
Claudia Bubel <>
Miriam Butt <>
Karen Steffen Chung <>
Ross Clark <>
Randall Eggert <>
Anthea Gupta <engafgARTS-01.NOVELL.LEEDS.AC.UK>
Paul Kilpatrick <>
Jochen Leibig <>
Patrick McConvell <>
P Bhaskaran Nayar <>
Gary Palmer <>
Elizabeth J. Pyatt <>
Farzad Salahshoor <>
Linda Tait <>
Mahendra Verma <>
I.R.Warner <>
Elena We <>
William F. Weigel <weigelwsocrates.Berkeley.EDU>

(my apologies if I've forgotten anyone)

The following movies were recommended:

"Amerikaner Shadkhn" ('American Matchmaker'): Yiddish and English
"Bei1qing2 Cheng2shi4" ('City of Sorrow'): Mandarin, Taiwanese
 and Shanghai dialect.
"Braveheart" : one scene with English and French
"Company Limited" (?) (Satyajit Ray): Bengali and English
"Crossover dreams": English and Spanish
"El Efecto Mariposa" ('The Butterfly Effect'): Spanish and English
"El Norte": Spanish and an unnamed Indian (Guatemala) language
"Four Weddings and A Funeral": English and Sign Language (?)
"I Like it Like That (?)": English and Puerto Rican Spanish
"Lorenzo's Oil" English and Italian
"Mahanagar": Bengali-English
"Ping Pong": English and a Chinese language
"Pred dozdot - Before the rain": Macedonian and Albanian
"Selena": English and Spanish
"Sophie's Choice": Polish and German
"The 13th warrior" : Arabic and English (?)
"The Children of Heaven": Persian and Azeri
"The Visitor": Hindi (?) and English
"Thunderheart": English and Lakota
"Twin Town": English and Welsh.
"White": French and Polish (?)

Some people also suggested Indian movies in general (Hindi
or other Indian languages and English) and Taiwan movies
(Mandarin and Taiwanese and sometimes English)

Unfortunately most of these movies were not available in the small
town where I live, so I couldn't try them out.

I ended up using "El Norte" and the following others I found:

"Big Night": English and Italian (the best I've found
 -- lots of good examples)
"Bhaji on the Beach" (English and Hindi or Panjabi)
"Heartbreak Kid": English and Modern Greek
"Head On": English and Modern Greek.

These last two are Australian films. Another very good
Aussie one is "Looking for Alibrandi" (English and Italian),
but it wasn't out on video yet.

Some other suggestions that I've used before but for
other purposes:

"The Harder They Come": switching between basilectal
and more mesolectal or acrolectal Jamaican Creole
(excellent for illustrating a creole continuum)

"Airplane" (it's released as "Flying High" in Australia)
(a send-up movie): a couple of scenes with two
 African Americans talking "Jive" (as it's called in the
movie) with subtitles given (for illustrating that (supposed)
dialects of the same language may be mutually unintelligible)

A final suggestion: a paper with some discussion of
code-switching in the film: "Dreaming Filipinos":
'What's wrong with Dreaming Filipinos? Grammar and
the subversion of cultural imperialism in a Tagalog film',
available at: --> Downloadable Papers

Jeff Siegel
University of New England
Armidale, NSW 2351 Australia
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