LINGUIST List 11.290

Fri Feb 11 2000

Review: Halmari: Government and codeswitching.

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  1. Jose Carrasquel, Re: book review

Message 1: Re: book review

Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 09:30:40 -0600
From: Jose Carrasquel <>
Subject: Re: book review

Halmari, Helena. 1997. Government and codeswitching: Explaining
 American Finnish. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
 pp. xiv, 262 + index. Cloth $ 89.00.

Reviewed by Jose Carrasquel, Northern Illinois University

 Halmari (1997) is another study stemming from the interest in
understanding codeswitched languages around the world in the last twenty
years. Her study analyzes the codeswitching patterns of the mixed language 
spoken in the U.S. by American Finns, which she refers to as Finnish-English 
(FE). The matrix language of FE is Finnish and its embedded items come from 
American English.
 In the first chapter Halmari gives an overview of the status of
codeswitching today as a very dynamic theory as more language pairs are
identified and studied. Although her study puts forth a structural account of FE
patterns, she states that syntactical theory alone cannot encompass the multi-
faceted nature of codeswitching. She points out that an explanatorily adequate 
theory of codeswitching must pay attention not just to grammar, but also to the
interplay of sociolinguistic, pragmatic, psychological and discourse factors in 
an individual's code alternations. The main structural goals of her study are 
one) to show how the current codeswitching constraints fail to account for a 
good number of switches in her FE data and two) to show how a simple 
modification of one constraint can predict most FE switches.
 The second chapter defines the scope of the study. There are three
types of codeswitches in the data: intra-, inter- and extrasentential switches. 
The main focus of her study is on the patterns across intrasentential switches, 
which account for 30% of the total of switches in the data. An important 
distinction in codeswitching theory is the distinction between borrowings and 
codeswitches. Traditionally, morphological assimilation has been held as the 
determining factor to differentiate between a borrowing and a codeswitch, an 
assimilated item being a borrowing and a non-assimilated item being a 
codeswitch. Halmari suggests that different language pairs seem to show 
different patterns of assimilation, and claims that phonological assimilation, 
not morphological assimilation, is the yardstick by which to tell a codeswitch 
from a borrowing in FE, given that morphological assimilation is the rule in FE.
 Chapter 3 describes her subjects and the codeswitching patterns in the
data. The data come both from naturally occurring speech and from grammaticality
judgements produced by 21 Finnish-English bilingual subjects. The subjects are
the author's relatives, friends and acquaintances, and they represent a wide
sample of American Finns from different ages, educational and socioeconomic 
backgrounds. The intrasentential switches to be accounted for can be divided 
into insertional (92%), alternational and clausal switches. Out of the 92% of 
insertional switches, 68% involve nouns and NPs, which suggests a borrowability 
or switchability hierarchy where the elements with the most capacity for
reference such as nouns tend to be switched the most. The switches not accounted 
for in her study are those involving discourse markers, coordinating 
conjunctions, metalinguistic talk, proper names, reported speech and borrowings.
 Chapter 4 reviews previous codeswitching proposals in light of their
inability both to account for some of the FE patterns in chapter 3 and to
predict the ungrammaticality of other switches. Poplack's (1980) Free Morpheme
Constraint, which stipulates that if a switch between a free and a bound 
morpheme occurs, the two morphemes must be assimilated phonologically, is 
violated by FE switches such as libraryn and lunchboxiin (p.76). Poplack et 
al.'s (1989) Equivalence Constraint, which stipulates that "switches of code 
tend to occur at points where the syntactic rules of the two languages match and 
the rules of neither language are violated" (p.76) does not hold for FE 
postpositional phrases such as lunchin alla 'before lunch' (p.77). Similarly, 
both Myers-Scotton's (1992, 1993) Matrix Language Frame Model and Belazi et 
al.'s (1991,1994) Functional Head Constraint fail to account for the 
ungrammaticality of embedded NPs devoid of Finnish morphology such as our 
neighbors and my letter and the grammaticality of NPs such
as meidan neighborit and minun letterin in which the embedded nouns neighbor
and letter are surrounded by Finnish markers (p.89).
 In chapter 5 Halmari shows how DiSciullo et al.'s (1986) Government
Constraint cannot fully account for the variety of her FE mixing data and
advances a modification to this constraint. She claims and shows that DiSciullo 
et al.'s Government Constraint that "the lexical governor and the highest 
lexical element of the governed maximal projection need to be in the same 
language." (p. 119) does not explain the Finnish case and agreement marking 
prevalent in intrasentential switches. She proposes and shows that DiSciullo et 
al.'s Government Constraint, with the modification that case-assignment and 
agreement morphology, alone or together with the highest lexical element in the 
governed phrase act as language indexes, can account for the majority of 
intrasentential switches in her data. In this chapter Halmari is very incisive 
and very accurate in showing both how her proposal builds on previous studies on 
other codeswitched language pairs and how her FE evidence challenges these 
 Chapter 6 examines counterexamples to the modified version of
DiSciullo et al. (1986) proposed in Chapter 5. The counterexamples in question 
are those switches in which the embedded item shows no Finnish morphological 
features. She suggests that these uncommon switches might be due to either 
certain pragmatic and sociolinguistic factors of the speech situation or to 
attrition in the speaker's competence of Finnish. Chapter 7 discusses the 
differences among a codeswitch, a borrowing and a nonce borrowing. Halmari does 
away with the traditional notion of nonce borrowing to designate those 
borrowings not assimilated syntactically and regards so-called nonce borrowings 
in her data as codeswitches, thus increasing the range of data her proposal 
accounts for. She also introduces a syntactic test to tell borrowings and 
codeswitches apart. Chapter 8 (as she puts it) 'entertains' the hypothesis of a 
language-pair typology of codeswitching. Halmari suggests that the fact that 
Finnish morphology is prominent in FE is not a coincidence, but rather there 
might be a tendency for synthetic/non-synthetic switched pairs to follow the 
synthetic language's structure. Nonetheless, she concludes that much more 
evidence from other codeswitched language pairs is needed before arriving
at a codeswitching typology.
 In chapter 9 she summarizes the findings of her study and outlines
directions for further research. First, she states that the modified version
of the Government Constraint she proposes is not a universal constraint, but
rather a strong tendency which accounts for the patterns of intrasentential
codeswitching in FE. She also claims that her modified Government Constraint has 
high explanatory power because, as an independently needed UG principle, it 
unifies the features and principles posited by previous proposals such as 
Poplack's (1980) Free Morpheme Constraint, Poplack et al.'s (1989) Equivalence 
Constraint and Myers-Scotton's (1992, 1993) Matrix Language Frame Model. As 
areas for further research in codeswitching she points out that issues such as 
the switchability between the subject phrase and VP and the nature of INFL as a 
governor need to be studied cross-linguistically. She concludes her monograph by 
stating that even though her study sheds light on the structural mechanism of 
code alternation, much more work to relate all the different mechanisms at work 
remains to be done.
 Halmari's Government and codeswitching: Explaining American Finnish
is an extremely elucidating and well argued for study in codeswitching research. 
Her sound and feasible methodology can serve as a guide for other pioneer
linguists to conduct research in non-documented or poorly documented 
codeswitching language pairs. Crucially, it attests to the importance of 
empirical studies in the testing and reformulation of theory.

Jose Carrasquel is an Assistant Professor of Spanish Linguistics at Northern
Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. He received his Ph.D. in Romance
Linguistics from the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington in 1995.
His fields of specialization are Spanish grammaticalization and Spanish
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