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Review of  The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Code Switching

Reviewer: Ilaria Fiorentini
Book Title: The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Code Switching
Book Author: Barbara E. Bullock Almeida Jacqueline Toribio
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
Issue Number: 24.2883

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“The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Code-switching”, edited by Barbara Bullock and Almeida Jacqueline Toribio, has appeared in paperback three years after the first hardback edition (2009). The book consists of five thematic sections, with 19 chapters.

The editors’ introduction, “Themes in the study of code-switching”, provides a broad overview, starting with an attempt to define code-switching (henceforth CS) which “comprises a broad range of contact phenomena and is difficult to characterize definitively” (p. 2); moreover, it has to be distinguished from other contact phenomena, such as loan translations, calques, mixed languages, and so on. The authors also describe the participants in CS (i.e. different kinds of bilingual speakers, such as early bilinguals, second language acquirers, etc.), as well as the motivations and social contexts of CS. The chapter ends with a survey of different strands in the study of CS, i.e. structural, psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic approaches.

Part I, “Conceptual and methodological considerations in code-switching research”, begins with Marianne Gullberg, Peter Indefrey, and Pieter Muysken’s “Research techniques for the study of code-switching”, a complete overview on the methods used in the investigation of CS phenomena. According to the authors, the main methodological problem concerning experimental techniques is “how to study CS without compromising the phenomenon” (p. 21). After a review of different techniques, such as the observation of naturalistic data, experimental methods, and neurocognitive methods, the authors propose a multi-task approach, which would “combine multiple methods and collect data from the same participants performing a variety of tasks” (p. 37).

In chapter 3, “On the notions of congruence and convergence in code-switching”, Mark Sebba takes into account the title terms as well as the notion of equivalence, i.e. the terms given to the quality of “‘sameness’ of grammatical categories across languages” (p. 41). The author analyzes some equivalences of phrase structure and other grammatical categories which can be treated as congruent across languages (such as gender in French and Arabic), and then looks at the strategies that bilingual speakers use to integrate different linguistic systems. Sebba concludes by suggesting that close linguistic contact may lead to “the emergence of new norms and the gradual convergence of the language to a new hybrid system” (p. 57).

Chapter 4, Jeanine Treffers-Daller’s “Code-switching and transfer: an exploration of similarities and difference”, deals with the ambiguities in terminology about CS, which can often be confused with other phenomena, such as borrowing. The author then takes into account psycholinguistic approaches to the phenomenon, reporting on some models for speech production which have been adapted to bilingual speech production, for instance Levelt’s model (1989). After a comparison between convergence and transfer in language change and in second language acquisition, Treffers-Daller points out how transfer is “a key concept that needs to form part of any theory of SLA” (p. 72). In conclusion, the author argues for the need for a unified account of CS and transfer.

In the last chapter of the first part, “Loan translation versus code-switching”, Ad Backus and Margreet Dorleijn, after defining the phenomena under study (i.e., besides the title terms, lexical borrowing, lexical change, interference/transference and structural borrowing), focus on loan translation, which they define as “any usage of morphemes in Language A that is the result of the literal translation of one or more elements in a semantically equivalent expression in Language B” (p. 77), and discuss in what ways it differs from CS. The authors analyze four types of loan translation (involving content morphemes, function morphemes, grammatical morphemes and discourse patterns), in order to point out what these processes have in common.

Part II, “Social aspects of code-switching”, commences with chapter 6, Penelope Gardner-Chloros’ “Sociolinguistic factors in code-switching”, which presents a survey of different sociolinguistic studies of and approaches to CS. The author warns against “using sociolinguistic parameters in too direct a way as an explanation of CS” (p. 98), but nonetheless points out that CS is a “major sociolinguistic indicator” (p. 113). Gardner-Chloros discusses some key concepts of sociolinguistics linked to CS, such as diglossia, variation between and within communities, we-code/they-code, gender, etc., with reference to the previous literature, such as Poplack (1988) and Gumperz (1982a, 1982b), showing how CS embodies a wide range of sociolinguistic factors, which interact or operate simultaneously.

In chapter 7, “The Conversation Analytic model of code-switching”, Joseph Gafaranga shows how a Conversation Analytic approach can be applied to the research on CS, presenting the CA model of CS (Torras and Gafaranga 2002), which corresponds to an organizational explanation of CS. Gafaranga argues that the prerequisite for a meaningful CA account of CS should be “the view that language choice is a significant aspect of talk organization” (p.125), and therefore language choice should be viewed as a resource as much as any other aspect of talk organization.

Chapter 8, “Code-switching and the internet”, takes into account a new form of CS which is not produced in spontaneous speech but in written data, i.e. in CMC (Computer Mediated Communication). Margreet Dorleijn and Jacomine Nortier argue for the usefulness of this kind of data in CS research, pointing out advantages and disadvantages in the use of three text types (e-mail, real-time chatgroups, forums), and analyze CS on Dutch/Turkish and Dutch/Moroccan Arabic websites by minority Moroccan and Turkish communities in the Netherlands.

Ghada Khattab’s contribution, “Phonetic accommodation in children’s code-switching”, which concludes the second part, aims to understand how bilingual children develop the ability to switch for communicative purposes, not only between different languages but also between native and non-native varieties. Khattab analyzes the development of sociolinguistic competence in both monolingual and bilingual settings, discussing data from a sociophonetic study (Khattab 2003) of three English/Arabic bilinguals.

Part III, “The structural implications of code-switching”, begins with Barbara E. Bullock’s “Phonetic reflexes of code-switching”. The author highlights how, in the descriptive and theoretical literature, “the phonetic and phonological reflexes of code-switching remain relatively unexplored” (p. 164), and discusses the use of phonological integration as a metric for distinguishing borrowing from CS. After an excursus on the laboratory research on the phonetics of CS, the author considers the effects and possible constraints that phonological and phonetic structure may place on CS, pointing out the challenges for future research on the role of phonology and phonetics in CS.

In chapter 11, Brian Hok-Shing Chan analyzes “Code-switching between typologically distinct languages”. The chapter starts with an overview of previous research on universal constraints on CS (above all, Poplack 1980), differentiating three different conclusions: a) the constraint approach is futile, b) there are no universal constraints, only specific ones and c) there are no constraints that operate specifically on CS (p. 185). Then, the author focuses on CS between typologically distinct languages, in particular between VO and OV languages and between languages with different types of DP. In conclusion, the author hypothesizes a tendency to select a morpho-syntactic rule from only one language, which would be the result of the balance between functional principles rather than between formal syntactic constraints.

In chapter 12, “Language mixing in bilingual children: code-switching?”, Natascha Müller and Katja Francesca Cantone take into account code-mixing phenomena in child speech. After a review of the studies on child language mixing and on structural constraints on CS proposed both for adults and for children, the authors present a monolingual approach to children language mixing, which results from the view that adult CS is constrained by nothing but the two grammatical systems involved.

David Quinto-Pozos concludes this section with an interesting introduction to “Code-switching between sign languages”. The author presents some previous work on CS in signed language, which has focused prominently on the interaction between a signed and a spoken language. Then, Quinto-Pozos analyzes two types of CS between signed languages, i.e. reiterative CS (the switching of synonymous signs) and non-reiterative CS, exemplifying them with a corpus composed of data from American Sign Language and Mexican Sign Language.

Part IV, “Psycholinguistics and code-switching”, begins with Adele W. Miccio, Carol Scheffner Hammer and Bárbara Rodriguez’ “Code-switching and language disorders in bilingual children”. The authors aim to provide a better understanding of CS for language pathology professionals, since it can be viewed as evidence of language disorders in bilingual children. They focus on the pragmatics of code-switching, CS as a measure of proficiency and CS as language choice in children, and then analyze the grammaticality of children’s CS. Finally, they consider in which cases CS can really be treated as evidence of a language disorder.

In chapter 15, “Code-switching, imperfect acquisition, and attrition”, Agnes Bolonyai deals with the popular belief that extensive CS could have a negative effect and cause bilingual children to lose their mother tongue. The author focuses on two fundamental questions: if CS can be taken as an indicator of the bilingual proficiency of the child and if there can be a connection between CS and language deterioration. Then, she examines the sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic factors which could potentially alter both the linguistic process and outcomes of language contact phenomena. Finally, Bolonyai distinguishes “normal” CS produced by fluent bilingual from CS in attrition, investigating the latter’s connections with contact-induced language change and erosion.

Chapter 16, “Code-switching and the bilingual mental lexicon”, examines Levelt’s model of speech production (1989) and Myers-Scotton’s Matrix Language Frame model (1993), with reference to a corpus of natural conversations involving Chinese-English and Japanese-English CS. The author, Longxing Wei, sketches the main characteristics of both models, and then applies them to his data, concluding that the bilingual mental lexicon “contains lemmas rather than lexemes from the component languages” (p. 287), and that the bilingual speech production process contains the same levels as the monolingual.

Chapter 17, “Code-switching and the brain”, focuses on neurocognitive mechanisms of CS. The authors -- Marta Kutas, Eva Moreno, and Nicole Wicha -- sketch the differences between the monolingual and bilingual brain, and then deal with the question of whether two languages in a bilingual brain are processed by the same region or by different ones. A number of electrophysiological studies of CS are reviewed in the last section.

The last part of the book, “Formal model of code-switching”, consists of two chapters. The first, Jeff MacSwan’s “Generative approaches to code-switching”, gives an overview of generative approaches to CS. An entire section is dedicated to minimalism and to the analysis of CS in the Minimalist Program. The chapter concludes by providing future directions for the field, which hopefully will lead to “increasingly better theories about the nature of bilingual language faculty as a reflection of the facts of CS” (p. 335).

Carol Myers-Scotton and Janice Jake’s “A universal model of code-switching and bilingual language processing and production”, provides a summary of the key features of the Matrix Language Frame (MLF) and 4-M models. The latter describes more precisely the morpheme types and recognizes significant division between them. The authors argue that the distribution of morpheme types in CS is compatible “with predictions of the MLF and 4-M models” (p. 357), and, therefore, with the Uniform Structure Principle, i.e. that principle that formalizes the notion that both in monolingual and bilingual speech “well-formedness conditions apply both within and between maximal projections (i.e. phrases and clauses)” (Myers-Scotton 2005: 18).

The present edition of the “Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Code-switching” does not differ from the 2009 edition (reviewed on LinguistList vol. 21.463, see References), except for the paperback format and reduced price. Given the nature of the book, as a resource for students and researchers, it is welcome that it is now more affordable.

The volume is, in sum, a complete and useful handbook which provides a wide overview of the issues concerning CS. It has the purpose of providing an up-to-date guide to the comprehension of a widespread and much investigated phenomenon, addressed from several different perspectives, from sociolinguistics, to psycholinguistics, to formal models.

The complexity of the topic and the lack of a universal definition of CS necessarily lead authors to have different visions and to give different definitions; nonetheless, most give sufficient references and overviews of previous literature to orientate readers in each area. Most notably, Gardner-Chloros’s chapter on sociolinguistic factors in CS is very clear and well exemplified; similarly, MacSwan’s contribution on generative approaches provides a broad summary of the formal literature and theories on the topic.

Another value is the book’s inclusion of innovative research, such as Margreet Dorleijn and Jacomine Nortier on CS and Computer Mediated Communication, which brings an analysis on the written rather than the oral level, or David Quinto-Pozos’ chapter on CS and sign languages.

As noted by Anderson (2010), a small limitation of this handbook is that, although it is intended for a broad audience and not only for experts, some chapters concern very specialized fields of studies and are accessible to a more limited audience; nevertheless, each author provides a number of references, so anyone could approach the topic.

In conclusion, this handbook is an essential read for any student or researcher interested in code-switching who would like to broaden his or her knowledge about this topic from different perspectives, from the more traditional to the more innovative ones.

Anderson, Tyler. 2010. Review of Bullock, Barbara and Toribio, Almeida Jacqueline. 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Code-switching. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. LinguistList 21.463.

Gumperz, John J. 1982a. Discourse strategies. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Gumperz, John J. 1982b. Language and social identity. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Khattab, Ghada. 2003. Sociolinguistic competence and the bilingual’s choice of phonetic variants: Auditory and instrumental data from English-Arabic bilinguals. PhD dissertation. University of Leeds.

Levelt, Willem J. M. 1989. Speaking: From intention to articulation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Myers-Scotton, Carol. 1993. Duelling languages: Grammatical structure in code-switching. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Myers-Scotton, Carol. 2005. Uniform structure: Looking beyond the surface in explaining codeswitching. Rivista di Linguistica 17. 15-34.

Poplack, Shana. 1980. Sometimes I’ll start a sentence in Spanish y termino en español: Towards a typology of code-switching. Linguistics 18(7-8). 581-618.

Poplack, Shana. 1988. Contrasting patterns of code-switching in two communities. In Monica Heller (ed.), Code-switching: anthropological and sociolinguistic perspectives. 215-244. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Torras, Maria-Carme and Gafaranga, Joseph. 2002. Social identities and language alternation in non-formal institutional bilingual talk: Trilingual service encounters in Barcelona. Language in Society 31(4). 527-548.
After earning an M.A. in Linguistics at the University of Turin with a thesis on the Italian suffix -ATA, Ilaria Fiorentini is now a PhD student at the University of Pavia and the Free University of Bozen (Italy). Her doctoral research deals with the contact situations in the Ladin valleys of Trentino Alto Adige/Südtirol, with particular attention to code-mixing phenomena among Ladin, Italian and German. Her primary research interests include sociolinguistics and pragmatics.

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