Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

New from Wiley!


We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Review of  Code-switching Between Structural and Sociolinguistic Perspectives

Reviewer: Liubov Baladzhaeva
Book Title: Code-switching Between Structural and Sociolinguistic Perspectives
Book Author: Gerald Stell Kofi Yakpo
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics
Cognitive Science
Issue Number: 27.941

Discuss this Review
Help on Posting
Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


“Code-switching Between Structural and Sociolinguistic Perspectives”, edited by Kofi Yakpo, tries to combine the structuralist, psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic perspectives on code-switching (CS). The editors embrace a wide definition of code-switching, including the switching between different codes in one speech event, in one sentence and in one word. The last two are sometimes defined as code-mixing (Muysken, 2000); however, the editors prefer not to put code-mixing into a separate category. The chapters in the volume focus on code-switching in many different places and on less-studied languages, such as Light Warlpiri and Pana.

Most authors of the chapters employ the Matrix Language Frame Model and Markedness Model in their analyses and use Muysken’s typology of code-switching. According to the Matrix Language Frame (MLF) (Myers-Scotton, 1993a), when two languages are combined in one sentence, one is the matrix language (ML), while the other is the embedded language (EL). The model predicts that the word order in a clause that contains code-switching will be taken from the matrix language. Markedness Model (Myers-Scotton, 1993b) explains code-switching from the social and pragmatic perspective. CS is marked if it is used to convey a social or discourse message. It is not marked, if its presence does not serve to convey such a message. Muysken’s typology (Muysken, 2000) divides CS into three types: insertional (items from language A are inserted into sentences in language B), alternational (items from language A and B alternate in a sentence), and congruent lexicalization (languages A and B converge morphosyntactically). All three types of CS can be marked or unmarked.

Chapter 1: Gerald Stell, Kofi Yakpo. “Elusive or self-evident? Looking for common ground in approaches to code-switching.”

The first chapter serves as an introduction to this edited volume. In the chapter the authors give a brief overview of the study of code-switching and the issues with defining code-switching; they describe different approaches to classification of code-switching. The authors suggest that community-wide code-switching is not necessarily a sign of a language shift, since it might be a stable system and not a transition state. They maintain that code-switching should be seen in a social context and should be approached holistically. The authors conclude that currently none of the grammatical models of code-switching embrace all the existing types of code-switching.

Part 1: Code-switching between cognition and socio-pragmatics

Chapter 2: Ad Backus. “A usage-based approach to code-switching: the need for reconciling structure and function.”

This chapter presents a preliminary theoretical model of code-switching. The author argues that the usage-based approach can enable a unified account of code-switching. This approach sees code-switching, loan translation, structural borrowing and transfer as aspects of a more general and continuous process of language change and not as separate phenomena. Backus suggests that code-switching should be studied both from synchronic and diachronic perspectives, and that lexical and structural types of code-switching should be investigated as parts of the same continuum. Backus argues that specificity and entrenchment are major factors in borrowing and code-switching.

Chapter 3: Gerrit Jan Kootstra. “A psycholinguistics perspective on code-switching: Lexical, structural, and socio-interactive processes.”

In this chapter the author tries to connect psycholinguistic, sociolinguistic and structural accounts of code-switching. He defines code-switching as the overt use of elements of more than one language in a single sentence (unlike transfer which is a covert use). The chapter presents experimental data on code-switching in which psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic approaches were combined. The results of the experiments show that interactive alignment is one of the major factors that influence code-switching. Bilinguals both make strategic choices to code-switch in order to convey a message and automatically and subconsciously align to the style of their interlocutor.

Chapter 4: Maria Carmen Parafita Couto, Margaret Deuchar, Marika Fusser. “How do Welsh-English bilinguals deal with conflict? Adjective-noun order resolution.”

This chapter presents an experimental study that attempts to test the Matrix Language Frame model. The focus of the study was noun-adjective combination in the speech of Welsh-English bilinguals. In English the adjective precedes the noun (‘red wine’), while in Welsh it follows the noun (‘gwin coch’). Therefore, if code-switching occurs in the noun-adjective combination, it might be a potential source of conflict for Welsh-English bilinguals. The results of the study mostly adhered to the MLF model: most combinations that contained code-switching followed the order of the matrix language. They also found significant correlations of language attitudes with the code-switching in production: those who were against code-switching tended to produce it less.

Chapter 5: Evershed Kwasi Amuzu. “Combining the Markedness Model and the Matrix Language Frame Model in analyzing bilingual speech.”

In this chapter the author tries to combine the Markedness Model and the Matrix Language Frame model in order to explain the structural and the conceptual patterns of code-switching in an Ewe-English bilingual community in Ghana. The results show that while speakers are not necessarily conscious of their code-switching they are capable of monitoring their speech and choosing not to code-switch if the situation requires it. Using English was sometimes an unmarked option in a dialogue between two bilinguals, since code-switching is very common among educated speakers in Ghana. At the same time, English can signify formality of the discourse or seriousness of the situation. Alternation and insertion appeared in both marked and unmarked types of code-switching.

Part 2: Multilingual interaction and social identity

Chapter 6: Gerald Stell. “Towards an integrated approach to structural and conversational code-switching through macrosociolinguistic factors.”

In this chapter the author analyzed code-switching patterns in three groups of bilinguals in South-Africa: White Afrikaans-English, Coloured Afrikaans-English (Coloured is the South African name for people of mixed race) and Black Sesotho-English. Stell wanted to investigate whether macrosociolinguistic factors, such as language prestige, would be more predictive of the percentage and type of code-switching in bilingual speech than typological factors (whether the languages are typologically close or distant). Unlike the findings in the previous chapter, there was a strong one-to-one relationship between socially meaningful paternal and grammatical patterns (alternation and insertion). On one hand, Afrikaans samples (both White and Coloured) show the tendency towards insertional CS, while Sesotho samples favored alternation. However, both Coloured Afrikaans and Black Sesotho samples also demonstrated a stronger tendency towards congruent lexicalization than the White Afrikaans sample. The author concludes that macrosociolinguistic factors seem to predict both conversational (percentage) and grammatical (type) patterns of code-switching.

Chapter 7: Eric A. Anchimbe. “Code-switching: Between identity and exclusion.”

The chapter provides an account of code-switching in multilinguals in Cameroon. The author analyzed a corpus of online interactions of Anglophone Cameroonians who switch to French and CPE (Cameroon Pidgin English) from a sociolinguistic perspective.The author argues that in post-colonial Cameroon none of the three languages can be an unmarked choice. English and French are a marked option that demonstrates education and class, as well as belonging to either an Anglophone or Francophone community. According to the corpus analysis, the authors of interactions consciously use code-switching in order to achieve pragmatic purposes. French is used to express negativity towards outsiders, while CPE, which is also primarily a language of the Anglophone community, is used to mark solidarity with the group. The author states that in order to analyze the pragmatic intent of CS, one needs to factor in colonial history, studies of ethnicity and identity and culture.

Chapter 8: Katherine Hoi Ying Chen. “Styling bilinguals: Analyzing structurally distinctive code-switching styles in Hong Kong.”

In this chapter, the author attempts to combine sociolinguistic and structural analysis of code-switching. According to the study, different structural patterns of code-switching in Cantonese-English bilinguals in Hong Kong signify different social identities they project. Code-switching between Cantonese and English is common among the local residents, especially among the youth. However, they normally insert English words into a Cantonese base sentence. At the same time, code-switching to English is stigmatized in the general culture and by older generations and considered to be a contaminating influence on Cantonese. People who returned to Hong Kong after living abroad exhibit different patterns of code-switching where alternation between English and Cantonese is prominent. This style of code-switching is stigmatized even among the code-switching local youth as it projects the Western identity over local. Thus, both styles of code-switching, structurally different, are used as linguistic markers of social identity.

Chapter 9: Bettina Migge. “The role of discursive information in analyzing multilingual practices.”

The author analyzes a corpus of recorded conversations of Nengee and Sranatongo Creole speakers from French Guiana and Suriname. Both Creoles are English-based and share many similarities, which makes the analysis of code-switching between them quite difficult. The corpus data also show that speakers code-switch not only content morphemes, but system morphemes as well. As a result, in order to analyze the hybrid structures combining two or more languages, it is not enough to rely on structural methodology. It is also important to consider “salience” – what is important or distinctive in a given language. It is not necessarily unambiguous which language is matrix language and which is embedded. The author calls for a fine-tuned sociolinguistic analysis that takes a close look into specific discourse of the interaction and situated language use, since the same pattern of CS can hold different meaning in different situations.

Chapter 10: Adam Blaxter Paliwala. “Creole/Superstrate code-switching: Structure and consequences.”

The author analyzes spoken conversation in Tok Pisin that took place in Madang and Port Moresby, as well as political speeches in the National Parliament. There is a discussion whether Tok Pisin and English in Papua New Guinea are fully separate languages or parts of a language continuum and whether the variation in Tok Pisin is a sign of developing decreolization and future language loss. Urban varieties of Tok Pisin appear to employ multiple switches to English, exhibiting insertion, alternation and congruent lexicalization. Urban population is often fluent in both languages and switch fluidly between them. Examples of the switches show that there are possible changes to the grammar of Tok Pisin, such as a consistent use of articles or double pluralization. However, it is not clear how stable are the changes and whether they will hold in the long term.

Part 3: Code-switching and social structure

Chapter 11: Klaus Beyer. “Multilingual speakers in a West African contact zone: An integrated approach to contact-induced language change.”

The articles focuses on multilingualism in a contact zone called Souroudougou between Burkina Faso and Mali, specifically on speakers of Pana. Pana speakers are a linguistic minority, while the main language of the region (acting as lingua franca) is Jula and French is the official language. One of the effects of the contact between the two languages is reduction in labialization of word-initial obstruents (present in Pana, but not in Jula). The data showed that speakers who are very integrated into the village community employ more labialization, while less socially integrated people are, apparently, less conservative in their language use and more affected by Jula and exhibit less labialization. The author suggests that contact-induced language change emerges here faster than in Western societies due to the fact that Pana is not used in education or media.

Chapter 12: Kofi Yakpo. “Code-switching and social change: Convergent language mixing in a multilingual society.”

This chapter focuses on code-switching in three Surinamese languages: Sranan (an English-based Creole), Sarnami (dialect of Bhojpuri) and Surinamese Javanese. Speakers of all three languages code-switch to Dutch (the sole language of education), in addition, speakers of Sarnami and Javanese also switch to Sranan (also serving as a local lingua franca). Code-switching is fairly pervasive in all three languages and speakers exhibit favourable attitudes towards it. However, the author argues that at the moment it cannot be said that there is one stabilized mixed language. There is some indication that there is a shift from Javanese to Sranan in younger speakers who exhibit limited proficiency in Javanese, however, it is not the case with Sarnami. Rise in education levels and urbanization led to extensive exposure of the population to Sranan and Dutch, which created a society in which most speakers are multilingual. Despite the fact that all three languages are typologically distant, the patterns of code-switching in all of them are very regular, which can point to a certain convergence of the languages caused by social factors (multilingualism and social interaction) rather than by the structures of the languages.

Chapter 13: Carmel O’Shannesy. “Typological and social factors influencing a new mixed language, Light Warlpiri.”

This chapter is about Light Warlpiri, a language that has recently emerged in Australia as a result of stabilizing and conventionalizing code-switching between Warlpiri (an Aboriginal language) and English/Kriol (local English-based creole). The author describes specific characteristics of the language which are different from both English and Warlpiri, such as the verbal auxiliary system which is used for the future-nonfuture distinction. Speakers of the language see it as a dialect of Warlpiri used by younger generations rather than a fully separate language.

Chapter 14: Sabine Ehrhart. “Continua of language contact.”

The chapter focuses on language ecology. Erhart argues for a holistic view of language contact situations and multilingual communities, where a notion of fully separate languages is not employed. The author compares classroom language policies in Luxembourg and New Caledonia. She states that code-switching and contact languages are the expression of the same phenomena, where creole languages appear as a result of prolonged code-switching. The author argues that code-switching should be seen as a normal and essential part of a multilingual society and it can create a positive environment in a multilingual classroom.


The volume is aimed at linguists who study code-switching and multilingualism. It brings together different perspectives on code-switching in an attempt to form a holistic and integrative approach to the phenomenon. The studies published in this volume demonstrate that addressing just the pragmatics or just the grammar of code-switching might provide only a limited understanding of CS. Code-switching is viewed as a normal and even essential part of communication in multilingual societies and not as a sign of language shift or deterioration. An important contribution of the volume is that it focuses mostly on less studied languages and on societies in which bi- or multilingualism is the norm. The studies employ diverse methodology and provide interesting insights into the practices of code-switching around the world.

The editors state that they do not wish to accept a single definition of code-switching for the volume and leave defining these terms to the chapter authors. However, sometimes this might lead to confusion, as the authors of chapters use different and not necessarily compatible definitions. In addition, almost in every paper the authors spend a significant portion of the text on defining the Matrix Language Frame Model, Markedness model and types of code-switching. Defining the basic terms in the introduction of the first chapter and referring to them in the following chapters might have brought more cohesion to the volume. The chapters in the first two parts of the book connect to each other and look at the same issues from different sides. However, the third part of the volume seems to be less connected to the first two parts, and the chapters in it are less connected to each other than the chapters in the other two parts.


Muysken, Peter. 2000. Bilingual speech: A typology of code-mixing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Myers-Scotton, Carol. 1993a. Social motivations for code-switching: Evidence from Africa. Oxford: Calrendon Press.

Myers-Scotton, Carol. 1993b. Duelling languages: Grammatical structures in code-switching. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.
Liubov Baladzhaeva is a PhD student at the University of Haifa. She is interested in multilingualism, language acquisition and attrition.