Code-switching

Ad Backus – Tilburg University
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 1:30-3:20 pm
2407 Mason Hall

See Course Description

In this course, we’ll explore the phenomenon of codeswitching, both for its own sake and for what it can tell us about language in general. Overall, codeswitching and contact-induced change will be confronted with the usage-based approach to linguistic competence, providing what could be called a usage-based contact linguistics.

Code-switching is the use of overt material from two or more different languages. It is very common in the speech of bi- and multilinguals the world over, and has attracted the attention of all kinds of linguists, from different sub-branches and  different theoretical persuasions. The class will provide a brief historical overview, in order to map the various contributions to the understanding of the phenomenon, and assess to what degree the study of code-switching is a coherent field (or not).

The usage-based approach will be shown to be relevant for the study of codeswitching and contact-induced language change because it has the potential to unite various strands of CS research that are up to now not much in contact, locked as they are in different corners of the discipline, and studied through different theoretical lenses. To do this, it will be necessary to study codeswitching in conjunction with other contact phenomena, primarily loan translation and grammatical interference, and to do so on both synchronic and diachronic planes. Traditionally, codeswitching is looked at from a self-contained purely synchronic point of view only; the course will explore to what degree a diachronic perspective can enrich both the account of the phenomenon itself and of its embedding in general linguistics. Seen this way, the study of codeswitching allows new windows on the essence of language.

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