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LINGUIST List 24.339

Sun Jan 20 2013

Review: Discourse Analysis; Socioling.: Sebba, Mahootian & Jonsson (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 20-Jan-2013
From: Madhav Kafle <mpk198psu.edu>
Subject: Language Mixing and Code-Switching in Writing
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EDITORS: Sebba, Mark; Mahootian, Shahrzad; Jonsson, Carla
TITLE: Language Mixing and Code-Switching in Writing
SUBTITLE: Approaches to Mixed-Language Written Discourse
SERIES TITLE: Routledge Critical Studies in Multilingualism
PUBLISHER: Routledge
YEAR: 2012

Madhav Kafle, Department of Applied Linguistics, The Pennsylvania State
University

SUMMARY
Code-switched written texts are often regarded as the outcome of incompetence;
however, this book successfully shows that code-switching is a natural
practice. The book establishes theoretical and methodological frameworks for
the study of various language-mixed texts, and provides sample empirical
studies that try to implement the proposed frameworks. Sebba, Mahootian, and
Jonsson have arranged the thirteen chapters based on three broad research
methods used: corpus analysis in the early chapters, ethnography and New
Literacy Studies in the middle ones, and discourse analysis in the later
chapters (p. 17). Overall, the book puts forward two important arguments: 1.
written multilingualism is not a deficit but a resource; 2. it is not an
exception but a norm in an increasingly global linguistic landscape. The
chapter summaries are as following:

1. Mark Sebba: Researching and Theorising Multilingual Texts
In his theoretical, introductory chapter, Sebba makes a strong case for new
approaches to studying language mixing in writing. Assessing the
(in)applicability of the three commonly used models in conversation
code-switching--i.e. models by John Gumperz, Carol Myers-Scotton, and Peter
Auer--, Sebba proposes that written mixed-language discourse should be studied
by incorporating three key perspectives: semiotics, literacy as a social
practice, and visual and spatial (multimodal) aspects of the texts (p. 2).
This call is echoed by most contributors throughout the book.

2. Herbert Schendl: Literacy, Multilingualism and Code-Switching in Early
English Written Texts
Schendl takes us on a tour of mediaeval texts in England. Reviewing mixing in
literary and non-literary texts and reminding us that written code-switching
dates back at least as far as the eighth century, he argues that mixed texts
can “not be dismissed as ‘linguistic accidents’ or products of writers and
scribes with limited linguistic competence” (p. 29). Exploring pragmatic
functions of code-switching in old English royal charters and medieval English
sermons, he also calls for an interdisciplinary approach to create a
comprehensive understanding of the patterns, functions, and perceptions of
code-switching.

3. Päivi Pahta and Arja Nurmi: Multilingual Practices in Women’s English
Correspondence 1400-1800
Despite an “allegedly monolingual nature” (p. 44) of medieval texts, Pahta and
Nurmi trace foreign elements in a corpus of women’s correspondence between
1400 and 1800. They find that, just like today, women’s code-switching in
medieval texts is textually and discursively motivated, even though at times
it can constitute just bits and pieces of the mixed languages. Pahta and Nurmi
argue that women in early and late modern England employed multilingual
resources more or less in the same way many women do today. For example,
issues such as identity and literacy of the writer and of the audience as well
as intertextual and genre specific conventions such as use of quotations and
the opening and endings of letters determined the place and frequency of
code-switching. Though the mixing was mainly done by higher class women in the
period under study, given the limited educational opportunities and frequent
ridicule aimed at educated women, code-switching by these women opens an
important avenue for understanding how they used their repertoire.

4. Cecilia Montes-Alcalá: Code-Switching in U.S. Latino Novels
With an underlying hypothesis that the principles of conversational
code-switching can also be applied in writing, Montes-Alcalá studies a corpus
of nine novels by Chicano, Cuban-American, and Nuyoricans writers. Based on
her data analysis, she develops taxonomy of functions of code-switching, which
consists lexical need, clarification, stylistic, idiomatic expressions,
emphasis, quotation, and triggered switches. Then, she explores whether
code-switching in the novels represents an authentic or artificial function.
She concludes that code-switching in novels may be not just purely rhetorical
but also authentic, i.e. represent everyday linguistic practices.

5. Mark Sebba: Writing Switching in British Creole
This chapter was originally published in Martin-Jones and Jones (2000). In it,
Sebba assesses the role of language policy and planning for situations when
two languages are similar in orthography but different in speaking, as in the
case of Standard English and British Creole. In such cases, it is often
challenging to figure out which codes belong to which language in writing. One
of the suggested solutions is using phonemic orthography; however, “very few
writers who use Creole have shown any interest in using” it (p. 97). Sebba
agrees with the suggestions provided by some scholars of using a phonemic
orthography to see the nuanced differences between Standard English and
British Creole; however, he worries that adopting a new orthography might be
problematic not only for readers but also writers. He concludes that the way
writers are using Creole currently, i.e. via respellings, may be the best
option since it is already established to an extent.

6. Samu Kytölä: Multilingual Web Discussion Forums: Theoretical, Practical and
Methodological Issues
As the title suggests, Kytölä discusses theoretical, practical, and
methodological concerns regarding researching multilingual web discussion
forums, a continually transforming genre. He deals with various aspects of
conducting web research, including whether to use online or offline
ethnography (or both) and whether to study the language mixed texts or the
people who do that. Focusing on what he calls discourse organization in the
web forums, he talks about the issue of framing, i.e., the way players present
their names, locations, headings, messages and so on. Kytölä argues that such
multiple layers raise the issue of the applicability of canonical
code-switching principles in current language mixing in the web.

7. Carmen Lee and David Barton: Multilingual Texts on Web 2.0: The Case of
Flickr.com
Lee and Barton set out to explore multilingual writing on the web by not just
prioritizing the texts, but by adopting multi-method and multimodal approaches
(p.128). Such approaches, they contend, deal with both texts and the practices
of the writers. While researching the Flickr, Lee and Barton use mixed method
approach for getting the insider knowledge, i.e. the knowledge of
technological affordances and the social practices in Flickr. To that end,
they study user profiles, titles, descriptions, tags, and comments in
Flickr.com and assess visual-verbal relationship. Lee and Barton conclude that
various mediating factors such as interestingness of the theme, locality of
the content, and understanding of the audience by the authors do play a
central role in utilizing the multilingual resources. While the multilingual
practices keep changing over time and across venues, Lee and Barton show that
Flickr users’ practices are as dynamic and as ever-changing as any kind of
everyday literacy practices (Barton & Hamilton, 1998).

8. Kristin Vold Lexander: Analyzing Multilingual Text-Messaging in Senegal: An
Approach for the Study of Mixed Language SMS
According to Lexander, we should study language mixing beyond the textual
level. For that purpose, ethnography, photography, and perspectives and
attitudes of the writers about the way they use language are essential. She
implements that approach for researching multilingual SMS and goes on to
highlight the functions of such SMSs: managing relationship, construction of
identities, and use of visual dimensions. Lexander emphasizes that mixing
various codes/languages in the SMS can index multiple components including
ethnicity, and politeness. She also points out that multilinguals in Senegal
use various orthographic forms for the same words because the standard is not
strictly followed in public use of Wolof as well.

9. Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye and Cécile Van den Avenne: Vernacular Literacy
Practices in Present-day Mali: Combining Ethnography and Textual Analysis to
Understand Multilingual Texts
Mbodj-Pouye and Van den Avenne study language mixing in two corpora of
grassroots texts, in what they call village corpus and letters sent to the
radio. The village corpus is composed of all kinds of writing used in the
villagers’ daily lives including shopping lists and personal notes. These
writings show linguistic heterogeneity, linguistic and cultural translation,
(e.g. dates in two different systems), and use of the same repeated words in
two languages. However, for the authors, this phenomenon shows linguistic
reflexivity at work not the lack of competence. Thus, like other authors,
Mbodj-Pouye and Van den Avenne urge us to see mixing as use of multilingual
resource because people usually choose different languages for some reason but
not owing to lack of competence. The authors also suggest that at least two
levels of analysis are essential: structural, which deals with the syntax of
code-switching, and discoursal, which takes into account the textual unit or
meaning units. 10. Shahrzad Mahootian: Repertoires and Resources: Accounting
for Code-mixing in the Media

Using four Spanish-English and one Afghan-American texts, Mahootian opines
that the existence of mixed codes in the US mainstream media is indicative of
the slow and gradual presence and acceptability of various marginal ethnic
groups. While her study of scripted performances, a short story, a bilingual
life style magazine, and a novel might not be fully representative, Mahootian
says that it is at least reflective of the fact that there is language change
due to the increasing contact of people, imbalance of power, and visibility of
minority. The mixing phenomena in the media, according to Mahootian, fulfill
at least three symbolic functions: a political statement of defiance, a shift
in social status and power, and a means to promote visibility and
transnational identities.

11. Carla Jonsson: Making Silenced Voices Heard: Code-Switching in
Multilingual Literary Texts in Sweden
Jonsson makes a case for two minority languages, Sami and Meankieli, in
Sweden, a so-called monolingual country. Based on her analysis of the mixing
of minority languages in two novels and author interviews, she argues that
both local and global functions of code-switching are achieved there. Whereas
local functions include conversational and explanatory cues and metaphorical
connotations, global functions refer to decentering Swedish and increasing
legitimacy of mixed practices. Jonsson also discusses how an international
language such as English can get preference over a heritage language
worldwide. However, Jonssson also explores how identities can be constructed
and reconstructed in the global linguistic market.

12. Sirpa Leppänen: Linguistic and Generic Hybridity in Web Writing: The Case
of Fan Fiction
Leppänen argues that both linguistic and discursive heteroglossia are semiotic
resources used by multilinguals as in the case of Finnish-English fan fiction.
The mixing of codes is complementary and is done for specific reasons
including indexicality; the mixing not only helps a group to align with other
similar groups but also to distinguish itself from the groups undesired. For
Leppänen too, mixing is not haphazard, and often can be morphologically and
orthographically integrated with the dominant language. In terms of
methodology as well, she maintains that we need a multidisciplinary approach
that explains how language practices are recontextualized and used
translocally as in the case of fan fiction.

13. Philipp Angermeyer: Bilingualism Meets Digraphia: Script Alternation and
Hybridity in Russian-American Writing and Beyond
Angermeyer describes the function of creativity in a situation where there is
both similarity and difference in the script system, as in Russian and
English. Such scripts create bivalency and raise interesting issues about the
language boundaries. Taking sample data from migrant and diaspora communities
in New York, Angermeyer explores the rationales for script and language
choice. Since digraphia can either facilitate or be a barrier owing to the
uneven distribution of linguistic resources in the audience, the mixing
depends on whether the target audience is single or parallel. When the codes
are integrated morphologically, one interesting scenario is that bilinguals
might think that such mixed forms belong to their own language. Additionally,
mixing might also be motivated by creativity such as found in personalized
license plates. Angermeyer contends that language contact, such as of Russian
and English, leads to a “re-evaluation and reinterpretation of linguistic
forms even in the absence of overt contact phenomena” (p. 269).

EVALUATION
This book is a laudable collection of articles in terms of showcasing viable
methodologies for researching multilingualism in general, and written language
mixing in particular. As the chapters in the collection show, language mixing
and code-switching was/is a common practice whether we explore Early English
correspondences or present day web discussion forums. In that light, the book
rightly argues that the phenomenon of linguistic heterogeneity is a natural practice.
Researching such instances can be done by implementing the theoretical and
methodological frameworks presented in this book.

Most of the contributors in the volume strive for establishing an integrated
perspective of multilingualism which sees language as a multimodal semiotic
practice (p. 130) rather than only a psychological and cognitive tool of
expression. Unlike many traditional studies of code-switching, which tend to
see it as a deficiency of the users, the current volume presents such
linguistic hybridity in the positive light by arguing for an inclusion of
literacy practice and semiotic perspectives while conducting research.
Additionally, treatment of a wide variety of data including quite short SMS
texts to profoundly long literary pieces and texts with generic and scriptual
hybridity provides solid empirical models for the novice researchers
interested in this field.

Despite such richness, however, the book could have even wider appeal had it
also included some samples from language teaching settings (see for example
Losey, 2009). The volume also seems oblivious to many other related concepts
that are used to refer to similar language mixing practices. For example,
translanguaging (Garcia, 2009, p. 45), code-meshing (Canagarajah, 2006;
Young, 2004), continua of biliteracy (Hornberger, 2003), and metrolingualism
(Pennycook, 2010) are some of the terms that more or less refer to the dynamic
language mixing practices of multilinguals. The collection would have been
more coherent if there was more coordination among the contributors;
currently, theoretical and methodological argument across multiple chapters
sounds rather repetitive at times and do rarely refer to each other. However,
this is not to belittle the contribution the volume makes in researching
language-mixed artifacts as well as phenomena of mixing.

The collection as a whole validates the act of language (including codes,
genres, scripts, and modes) mixing, even in writing, and emphasizes
collaboration across disciplines for getting a comprehensive understanding of
increasing linguistic hybridity all around. Overall, the book is a great
resource for anyone interested in studying multilingual semiotic practices in
the written medium.

REFERENCES
Barton, D., & Hamilton, M. (1998). Local literacies: Reading and writing in
one community. New York: Routledge.

Canagarajah, A.S. (2006) The place of world Englishes in composition:
pluralization continued. College Composition and Communication 57(4): 586–619.

Garcia, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global
perspective. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hornberger, N.H. (2003). Continua of biliteracy: An ecological framework for
educational policy, research, and practice in multilingual settings. Clevedon,
UK: Multilingual Matters.

Losey, K.M. (2009). Written codeswitching in the classroom: Can research
resolve the tensions? International Journal of Bilingual Education and
Bilingualism, 12(2), 213-230.

Martin-Jones, M., & Jones, K. (2000). Multilingual literacies: Reading and
writing different worlds. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Pennycook, A. (2010). Language as a local practice. New York: Routledge.

Young, V.A. (2004). Your average nigga. College Composition and Communication,
55(4), 693-715.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Madhav Kafle is a doctoral candidate in Applied Linguistics at The
Pennsylvania State University. He has taught English in rural Nepal and
currently teaches academic writing at Penn State. His research interests
include multilingual writing, global spread of English, and critical pedagogy.
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