LINGUIST List 24.339

Sun Jan 20 2013

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

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 20-Jan-2013
From: Madhav Kafle <>
Subject: Language Mixing and Code-Switching in Writing
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EDITORS: Sebba, Mark; Mahootian, Shahrzad; Jonsson, CarlaTITLE: Language Mixing and Code-Switching in WritingSUBTITLE: Approaches to Mixed-Language Written DiscourseSERIES TITLE: Routledge Critical Studies in MultilingualismPUBLISHER: RoutledgeYEAR: 2012

Madhav Kafle, Department of Applied Linguistics, The Pennsylvania StateUniversity

SUMMARYCode-switched written texts are often regarded as the outcome of incompetence;however, this book successfully shows that code-switching is a naturalpractice. The book establishes theoretical and methodological frameworks forthe study of various language-mixed texts, and provides sample empiricalstudies that try to implement the proposed frameworks. Sebba, Mahootian, andJonsson have arranged the thirteen chapters based on three broad researchmethods used: corpus analysis in the early chapters, ethnography and NewLiteracy Studies in the middle ones, and discourse analysis in the laterchapters (p. 17). Overall, the book puts forward two important arguments: 1.written multilingualism is not a deficit but a resource; 2. it is not anexception but a norm in an increasingly global linguistic landscape. Thechapter summaries are as following:

1. Mark Sebba: Researching and Theorising Multilingual TextsIn his theoretical, introductory chapter, Sebba makes a strong case for newapproaches to studying language mixing in writing. Assessing the(in)applicability of the three commonly used models in conversationcode-switching--i.e. models by John Gumperz, Carol Myers-Scotton, and PeterAuer--, Sebba proposes that written mixed-language discourse should be studiedby incorporating three key perspectives: semiotics, literacy as a socialpractice, 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 EarlyEnglish Written TextsSchendl takes us on a tour of mediaeval texts in England. Reviewing mixing inliterary and non-literary texts and reminding us that written code-switchingdates back at least as far as the eighth century, he argues that mixed textscan “not be dismissed as ‘linguistic accidents’ or products of writers andscribes with limited linguistic competence” (p. 29). Exploring pragmaticfunctions of code-switching in old English royal charters and medieval Englishsermons, he also calls for an interdisciplinary approach to create acomprehensive understanding of the patterns, functions, and perceptions ofcode-switching.

3. Päivi Pahta and Arja Nurmi: Multilingual Practices in Women’s EnglishCorrespondence 1400-1800Despite an “allegedly monolingual nature” (p. 44) of medieval texts, Pahta andNurmi trace foreign elements in a corpus of women’s correspondence between1400 and 1800. They find that, just like today, women’s code-switching inmedieval texts is textually and discursively motivated, even though at timesit can constitute just bits and pieces of the mixed languages. Pahta and Nurmiargue that women in early and late modern England employed multilingualresources 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 wellas intertextual and genre specific conventions such as use of quotations andthe opening and endings of letters determined the place and frequency ofcode-switching. Though the mixing was mainly done by higher class women in theperiod under study, given the limited educational opportunities and frequentridicule aimed at educated women, code-switching by these women opens animportant avenue for understanding how they used their repertoire.

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

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

6. Samu Kytölä: Multilingual Web Discussion Forums: Theoretical, Practical andMethodological IssuesAs the title suggests, Kytölä discusses theoretical, practical, andmethodological concerns regarding researching multilingual web discussionforums, a continually transforming genre. He deals with various aspects ofconducting web research, including whether to use online or offlineethnography (or both) and whether to study the language mixed texts or thepeople who do that. Focusing on what he calls discourse organization in theweb forums, he talks about the issue of framing, i.e., the way players presenttheir names, locations, headings, messages and so on. Kytölä argues that suchmultiple layers raise the issue of the applicability of canonicalcode-switching principles in current language mixing in the web.

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

8. Kristin Vold Lexander: Analyzing Multilingual Text-Messaging in Senegal: AnApproach for the Study of Mixed Language SMSAccording to Lexander, we should study language mixing beyond the textuallevel. For that purpose, ethnography, photography, and perspectives andattitudes of the writers about the way they use language are essential. Sheimplements that approach for researching multilingual SMS and goes on tohighlight the functions of such SMSs: managing relationship, construction ofidentities, and use of visual dimensions. Lexander emphasizes that mixingvarious codes/languages in the SMS can index multiple components includingethnicity, and politeness. She also points out that multilinguals in Senegaluse various orthographic forms for the same words because the standard is notstrictly followed in public use of Wolof as well.

9. Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye and Cécile Van den Avenne: Vernacular LiteracyPractices in Present-day Mali: Combining Ethnography and Textual Analysis toUnderstand Multilingual TextsMbodj-Pouye and Van den Avenne study language mixing in two corpora ofgrassroots texts, in what they call village corpus and letters sent to theradio. The village corpus is composed of all kinds of writing used in thevillagers’ daily lives including shopping lists and personal notes. Thesewritings show linguistic heterogeneity, linguistic and cultural translation,(e.g. dates in two different systems), and use of the same repeated words intwo languages. However, for the authors, this phenomenon shows linguisticreflexivity 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 multilingualresource because people usually choose different languages for some reason butnot owing to lack of competence. The authors also suggest that at least twolevels of analysis are essential: structural, which deals with the syntax ofcode-switching, and discoursal, which takes into account the textual unit ormeaning units. 10. Shahrzad Mahootian: Repertoires and Resources: Accountingfor Code-mixing in the Media

Using four Spanish-English and one Afghan-American texts, Mahootian opinesthat the existence of mixed codes in the US mainstream media is indicative ofthe slow and gradual presence and acceptability of various marginal ethnicgroups. While her study of scripted performances, a short story, a bilinguallife style magazine, and a novel might not be fully representative, Mahootiansays that it is at least reflective of the fact that there is language changedue to the increasing contact of people, imbalance of power, and visibility ofminority. The mixing phenomena in the media, according to Mahootian, fulfillat least three symbolic functions: a political statement of defiance, a shiftin social status and power, and a means to promote visibility andtransnational identities.

11. Carla Jonsson: Making Silenced Voices Heard: Code-Switching inMultilingual Literary Texts in SwedenJonsson makes a case for two minority languages, Sami and Meankieli, inSweden, a so-called monolingual country. Based on her analysis of the mixingof minority languages in two novels and author interviews, she argues thatboth local and global functions of code-switching are achieved there. Whereaslocal functions include conversational and explanatory cues and metaphoricalconnotations, global functions refer to decentering Swedish and increasinglegitimacy of mixed practices. Jonsson also discusses how an internationallanguage such as English can get preference over a heritage languageworldwide. However, Jonssson also explores how identities can be constructedand reconstructed in the global linguistic market.

12. Sirpa Leppänen: Linguistic and Generic Hybridity in Web Writing: The Caseof Fan FictionLeppänen argues that both linguistic and discursive heteroglossia are semioticresources used by multilinguals as in the case of Finnish-English fan fiction.The mixing of codes is complementary and is done for specific reasonsincluding indexicality; the mixing not only helps a group to align with othersimilar groups but also to distinguish itself from the groups undesired. ForLeppänen too, mixing is not haphazard, and often can be morphologically andorthographically integrated with the dominant language. In terms ofmethodology as well, she maintains that we need a multidisciplinary approachthat explains how language practices are recontextualized and usedtranslocally as in the case of fan fiction.

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

EVALUATIONThis book is a laudable collection of articles in terms of showcasing viablemethodologies for researching multilingualism in general, and written languagemixing in particular. As the chapters in the collection show, language mixingand code-switching was/is a common practice whether we explore Early Englishcorrespondences or present day web discussion forums. In that light, the bookrightly argues that the phenomenon of linguistic heterogeneity is a natural practice.Researching such instances can be done by implementing the theoretical andmethodological frameworks presented in this book.

Most of the contributors in the volume strive for establishing an integratedperspective of multilingualism which sees language as a multimodal semioticpractice (p. 130) rather than only a psychological and cognitive tool ofexpression. Unlike many traditional studies of code-switching, which tend tosee it as a deficiency of the users, the current volume presents suchlinguistic hybridity in the positive light by arguing for an inclusion ofliteracy practice and semiotic perspectives while conducting research.Additionally, treatment of a wide variety of data including quite short SMStexts to profoundly long literary pieces and texts with generic and scriptualhybridity provides solid empirical models for the novice researchersinterested in this field.

Despite such richness, however, the book could have even wider appeal had italso included some samples from language teaching settings (see for exampleLosey, 2009). The volume also seems oblivious to many other related conceptsthat 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 dynamiclanguage mixing practices of multilinguals. The collection would have beenmore coherent if there was more coordination among the contributors;currently, theoretical and methodological argument across multiple chapterssounds rather repetitive at times and do rarely refer to each other. However,this is not to belittle the contribution the volume makes in researchinglanguage-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 emphasizescollaboration across disciplines for getting a comprehensive understanding ofincreasing linguistic hybridity all around. Overall, the book is a greatresource for anyone interested in studying multilingual semiotic practices inthe written medium.

REFERENCESBarton, D., & Hamilton, M. (1998). Local literacies: Reading and writing inone 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 globalperspective. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

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

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

Martin-Jones, M., & Jones, K. (2000). Multilingual literacies: Reading andwriting 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 REVIEWERMadhav Kafle is a doctoral candidate in Applied Linguistics at ThePennsylvania State University. He has taught English in rural Nepal andcurrently teaches academic writing at Penn State. His research interestsinclude multilingual writing, global spread of English, and critical pedagogy.

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