Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Bilingualism and Code Switching


Bilingualism is the ability to use two languages effectively. Monolingualism refers to the ability to use a single language. The ability to use multiple languages is known as Multilingualism.

·         Bilingual or multilingual is a person who can speak two or more than two languages with equal or less equal proficiency.

·         A society is called bilingual or multilingual if the people there speak more than one language.

About half of the world's population is multi / bilingual. It is, in fact, very hard to find a monolingual community or society like Japan etc. While talking about sub continent in general and specially Pakistan we come to know that we are a multilingual community. We use Urdu as a medium of communication in our schools and colleges. Further it also serves as ‘lingua franca’ in our country. We use domestic languages at local level such as Punjabi, Hindko, Barahwi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Saraiki, Kashmiri etc. and we use English also as a foreign language. People of Pakistan are bilingual / trilingual or generally multilingual.

·         If a speaker has equal proficiency in both or all the languages he can speak or write, he is called a ‘Balanced Bilingual’ or ‘Equilingual’.

However, there may be some situations where a bilingual's abilities in a given language suffer due to pressure of situation etc. There may also be a situation of more receptive knowledge of one language and more active knowledge of another i.e.
he may understand a language but may not speak it and he may speak and understand other language very well. There are also some situations in which a bilingual is familiar with the spoken system of one language and written system of another. There may also be a diglossic situation in which some topics and situations are considered better suited to one language over another.

In a community or a society where there are bilinguals and the people interact with each other in more than one language, a situation arises which is called ‘code-switching’ and ‘code-mixing’. This situation can lead towards the language interference in which a language is influenced by another language on the levels of semantics, grammar and phonology.

·         The practice of moving back and forth between two languages or between two dialects or registers of the same language. Code switching occurs far more often in conversation than in writing.

·         In linguistics, code-switching is the concurrent use of more than one language, or language variety, in conversation. Multilinguals—people who speak more than one language—sometimes use elements of multiple languages in conversing with each other. Thus, code-switching is the use of more than one linguistic variety in a manner consistent with the syntax and phonology of each variety.

Code-switching is distinct from other language contact phenomena, such as ‘pidgin’. Speakers form and establish a pidgin language when two or more speakers who do not speak a common language form an intermediate, third language. On the other hand, speakers practice code-switching when they are each fluent in both language.

Difference Between Code-Switching And Code-Mixing

It is necessary to understand that unlike code mixing, code-switching refers to the switch or shift from one language to the other which involves longer stretches or units of language at the clause or sentence boundary, while generally code-mixing does not involve shift beyond smaller units of language such as words or phrases.

While discussing the three types of code-switching: tag-switching, intra-sentential and inter-sentential, Poplack differentiates between code-switching and code-mixing as well.  To Poplack,

1.    Tag-switching is the switching of either a tag phrase or a word, or both, from one language to the other.

2.    In inter-sentential switching a switch is made on clause or sentence boundary, or between speaker’s turn.

3.    Intra-sentential switching on the other hand occurs within the clause or sentence boundary as a result of the insertion of a part of a word, a word, a combination of words or a phrase. It is actually this type of code-switching i.e. intra-sentential code switching which is called ‘code-mixing’.

Scholars have used a fourth term ‘Intra-word switching’ which occurs within a word itself such as at a morpheme boundary.

So, code-mixing is a type of code switching which include the borrowing and hybridization of words, while code-switching refers to all these i.e. borrowing, code-mixing and code-switching.

In the 1940s and the 1950s many scholars called code-switching a sub-standard language usage. Since the 1980s, however, most scholars have recognized it is a normal, natural product of bilingual and multilingual language use. 


In Pakistan, we find a number of non-English words, phrases, clauses and sentences being inserted in English to create variety as well as a particular effect on the listener. These are the some of the examples (Taken from Dawn, Helad etc.) of code-switching between Urdu and English.

Noun Phrase

Some examples of code-switching in noun phrases:

Ø  A poor hari can be sent to the gallows even on the mild accusation of a crime leveled against him by a noble.

Ø  An honorable sardar or wadera can walk free even after proven record of the most heinous kinds of crimes.

Ø  They alleged that the naib nazim was receiving threats to force him to part ways with the PPP-backed Awam Dost panel.

In the first two examples, the English adjectives are modifying the Urdu nouns in a noun phrase while in the third example both the adjective and noun are from the Urdu language. All the noun phrases have the English determiners ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’ respectively in the beginning of the sentences.

     Urdu Noun Phrase as an Apposition of another Noun

‘Apposition’ means the placing of a noun group after a noun or pronoun in order to identify something or someone or give more information about them. In the following example, the Urdu noun phrase is giving information about the proper noun ‘Haji Ramzan’.

Ø  Five militants who tried to kidnap tehsil municipal officer Hameedullah on October 8 were forced to give up their hostage after Haji Ramzan, the tehsil naib nazim, and his men confronted them on the main Tank-Jandola road.

Urdu Noun Phrase as the Subject

Ø  The Islamabad ka muqadas darakht revolved around a popular Banyan tree that stood in sector E-7 but was a few months back burned down.

Ø  Fateh Muhammad Mailk argued that kufar ka fatwa is nothing new with us.

Urdu Phrase introduced by an English Adverb

In the examples below, the English relative adverb “as” introduces the Urdu stretches of words. This type of switching is very rare and demands high proficiency.

Ø  Amjad considered her as ustad se ziyada dost.

Ø  And an old friend of hers, a female writer, was so infuriated on being referred to as a ‘Cycle wali larki’ that she broke relations with her for good.

Ø  According to them, they were not shunned by the public as lula, langra and apahaj.

Adjective Phrase

In the examples below, an Urdu adjective phrase has been inserted in the English sentence.

Ø  He is called sher ka bacha and mard ka bacha.

In the following example the English intensifier ‘very’ has been used with an Urdu adjective. This kind of code-switching is very rare.

Ø ‘I think you are right madam,’ said a young man, city life and modern education makes men very beghairat.

In the examples given below, the Urdu adjective phrases are modifying the English nouns in the noun phrases.

Ø  It was a taiz raftar bus and I merely sat on it as well.

Ø  The 60-minutes interview was largely spent in advocate Bukhari name dropping, saying he grew up with the lordships of the Superior Court and what payare insaan they are.

Prepositional Phrase

Urdu has a postposition instead of English preposition, which differs in the way that it precedes objects. A collective term used for both preposition and postposition is adposition. In typical Urdu adposition phrases, adposition comes at the end. An Urdu postposition phrase is syntactically inserted in English syntax in the following example:

Ø  Both of them unhurt Khuda key fazal sey while Shazia became paraplegic.

Co-ordinated Clauses

In Pakistani English, co-ordinated clauses are joined by English as well as Urdu conjunctions. However Urdu conjunctions do not occur quite frequently. A conjunction that often conjoins the English clauses to the Urdu adjacent clauses is “and”. Here is an example of the use of the English coordinating conjunction:

Ø  Why don’t we all go together to New Delhi? N ki shaddi ki shopping bhi ho jaye gi and we can have much fun.

As can be seen in the above example, there is switching here back and forth between English and Urdu. An Urdu clause is embedded in English and English is taken up again.

In the following example, an Urdu conjunction “lekin” (but) is inserted in the English sentence. This Urdu conjunction has a pragmatic effect as a discourse marker in drawing attention to the utterance.

Ø  We reached there in time, lakin no body was there to receive us.

Another interesting feature of Pakistani English that has been found as a result of Urdu-English code-switching is the use of an independent Urdu clause or sentence with English in written as well as spoken English.

Here are three examples where Urdu clauses are syntactically independent; however, they share a semantic relationship with each other:

Ø  Very soon, I will be a big star in Bollywood, main naumeed nahin hougni.

Ø  He is set to release some very interesting films, which he describes as happy-go-lucky movies, aaj kal happy fims ka zamana hai.

Ø  I cannot make new friends. Main buri, mairi dosti buri.

Noun Clause

These are the switched Urdu noun clauses.

Ø  Sub kutch chalet hai is their dictum.

Ø  The whole thing is that key bhaiya sab se bada rupaiya.

In the following example the English noun clause is joined with the Urdu main clause through the English subordinating conjunction ‘that’.

Ø  Mujhe shikayat hai that we are not making history.

Repetitions and Other Switches

Sometimes, Urdu phrases or clauses are used just as the repetition of an English phrase or clause. The purpose of this type of switching is to give emphasis. Sometimes it is used to address different audiences.

Ø  Take care, apna bahut khayal rakhiya ga.

Ø  Feroz was very drunk. Usko chad gayi thi.

In some cases, Urdu clauses are used to quote maxim and proverb in Pakistani English. Here are some examples:

Ø  My unbending procrastination is one thing that repels the beauty of the world but they say ‘sabar ka phal meetha hai’.

Ø  He gave the example of the phrase ‘auratein bhot bolteen hain’.

Ø  She was very touched and impressed, especially when the waiter uttered these words ‘baaji, mehman sey paisay nahin letay.

Ø  She opened the Q and A session by saying ‘ab ball aap ki court main hai’.

Command of only a single variety of language, whether it be a dialect, style or register, would appear to be an extremely rare phenomenon. Most speakers command several varieties of the language they speak, and bilingualism, even multilingualism, is the norm for many people throughout the world rather than unilingualism or monolingualism.

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