Linguistics and Language

Topics: Linguistics, Multilingualism, Language Pages: 5 (1689 words) Published: February 20, 2013
The Benefits and Downsides of Intermingling Languages

While bilingualism has always been an object of interest and thorough research for scientists of various fields, mixing languages had been, until the last few decades, cast aside as its defective by-product. However, recent linguistic studies show that intermingling languages should not be considered an ill-conceived overlapping tendency that implies carelessness and a improper use of language, but a linguistic phenomenon with its own intricate rules and purposes. The addition of objectivity towards this subject has enabled linguists to describe in length the downsides and benefits of intermingling languages. None of the pros and cons can be treated with absolute certainty as language mixing itself is often subject to different interpretations. The term ‘intermingling languages’ is sometimes replaced with ‘code switching’ or ‘code mixing’, and the latter two treated as synonyms, although their meaning differs in multiple aspects. Code switching implies that the alternation between languages takes place after longer periods of time. Since code-switch mostly occurs at a clause or sentence boundary, it is referred to as intersential switching. According to the Sridhar brothers (1980) code mixing comprises of changing languages after shorter utterances within a single sentence, and can therefore be considered intrasential. Unlike code switching, it is not accompanied by a shift in speech situation. Code mixing also differs from borrowing, which is a less comprehensive form of using multiple languages in a short period of time. Code mixing, unlike borrowing, is not necessarily caused by a lexical gap in the host language. Neither are the mixed elements limited to a collection of terms accepted by the speech community. The mixed sequences are longer than single words (as is immanent to borrowing), but they are not always assimilated into the base language according to usual grammatical rules. The greatest difference of the two linguistic devices is probably the fact that code mixing is inevitably the result of bilingualism, however, borrowing can also occur in monolingual speech. (Sridhar & Sridhar 1980) Despite the availabilty of aforementioned precise definitions numerous studies use code/language switching, mixing and intermingling synonymously without notable deficiency in the results, since these definitions tend to not hold a high level of importance when it comes to analysing the reasons, benefits and downsides of mixing languages. Contrary to popular belief, code mixing is not necessarily a sign of improperly acquired languages or inability to switch from bilingual to monolingual mode. Instead, the contradicticting mixing occurs when the usage of a single language no longer efficiently conveys meaning that is appropriate to a certain situation. According to Crystal (1987 cited in Rezaei & Gheitanchian 2008) the benefits of code-switch become apparent when solving communication problems in three types of situations. The most obvious reason for a switch in languages being the difficulty in expressing oneself due to a deficiency in the base language. This shortage of a lexical item may come about because the expressed concept has no equivalent in the culture of the other language, or simply because of a momentary inability to remember said term in the host language. This type of code switching is especially prone to happen when the speaker is upset, tired or distracted in some manner. Work related mixing also falls into the ‘lexical gap’ category. For example, code switching becomes a useful tool when individuals lack the appropriate jargon while speaking about a particular topic. One may mix languages when talking about work because the technical terms associated with work are only known in one language. The second important cause in switching is the wish to ensure social belonging. An individual my want to express solidarity...

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