Code switchers who use English as their first language decide how they will switch the pronunciation of their English words depending on the setting within which they are speaking. The extent of formality or informality in a particular situation is what they consider most (Nilep, 2006).
The decision to switch language is not too much of a conscience decision but it more or less just happens. Other people may not even use the colloquial ways of pronunciation but they are ubiquitous within the English language among people from diverse settings and backgrounds (Gluth, 2002, p.6). It is most likely that every individual use code switching in their first language. This could only lack if someone is born, lives and dies in an isolated village with no exposure to other codes (NPR, 2012). This paper presents an exploration of the social motivations for code switching and its use to express identity, social roles and discourse functions. It will also consider the attitude displayed by people towards their patterns of code switching.
Code Switching Explained
Socio-linguists maintain that code switching is almost a necessity and an unconscious communication that people use with ease and complexity at the same time. This means that individuals are aware of its existence but not self-consciously aware (Insurin, Winford & Bot, 2009, p.4). Thus, they can communicate in a formally appropriate way with one person and with an easier informal way with another person. For instance, in a work context, one would not greet their boss with a “Yo!” or a “How’re ya doin’?” not unless they want their next performance review to be unimpressive. They would instead greet them, “How are you?” or “Good Morning.” However, some bosses would not mind their juniors greeting them with a “Yo.” This is pretty much a form of code switching. Therefore, it becomes an issue of the nature of relationship existing between and among people at different contexts (Gluth, 2002, p.6). Code switching can be used to facilitate communication and obscure it at the same time. Viewed from its broadest, code switching cannot simply be reduced to assimilation, adapting, or register (Gluth, 2002, p.6). It is a combination of all these and even goes beyond familiarization or identifying with other people’s backgrounds. Other people do not change totally, but adopt features depending on the context they are in (Heath & Bryant, 2000, p.283). For instance, if a person bumps into his Cockney friend, his speech may automatically take to features of Cockney English, something they do not do elsewhere or with other friends. Therefore, code switching is a broad phenomenon, which cuts across one’s first language, familiarizing or identifying with the people around and formal and informal communication (Nilep, 2006). Social Motivations for Code Switching Factors such as social status, class, and ethnicity are believed to motivate most code switching behaviors. Other sociolinguists maintain that code switching is a way of structuring communication when interacting with people in different contexts while others argue that code switching is not merely used to depict social situations but it is rather a means of developing social situations (Bassiouney, 2006, p.159). Various theories have been advanced to explain the social motivations behind code switching. These theories include the Markedness Model, Sequential Analysis, and Communication Accommodation Theory