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For what reasons and in what ways do speakers of English use style shifting and codeswitching?

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Introduction

Question 1 For what reasons and in what ways, do speakers of English use style shifting and codeswitching? Style shifting in a language and codeswitching between languages are used for many different reasons. In this essay I will examine both the process of style shifting in English and codeswitching between English and other languages. I will look at the functions these processes serve, the reasons for their occurrence and the linguistic changes that occur in these processes. Style Shifting Style shifting is a method of altering your speech to suit a particular situation. The situation can dictate the style of speech you choose to use. If you are in an informal situation you will probably speak differently, perhaps more colloquially, than if you are in a formal situation. However, it is not only the formality of a situation which determines how one speaks. There are many other factors to consider. Allan Bell's theory of audience design argues that your speaking style varies according to the audience you are speaking to. Bell studied New Zealand newsreaders on various radio stations and discovered that more formal pronunciation was used on stations where the audience was known to consist of professional, educated people. Interestingly, some of the newsreaders worked on several stations and their pronunciation would change to suit the style of the station (p.301 course book). Bell examined the pronunciation of the letter /t/ in words such as 'writer' and 'better'. He discovered that the /t/ was pronounced more formally on stations with a professional audience. ...read more.

Middle

He divided his informants into different social groups and different situations. You would normally expect the upper classes of society to pronounce /r/ more often than the lower classes, particularly in more formal situations. However, Labov's research showed that the lower middle class pronounced the /r/ more often that the upper class (p.279 course book). Labov claims that this is because the lower middle classes are trying to emulate the upper class as they are hoping to be accepted into that echelon of society. Labov's research also showed that women were far more likely to hypercorrect than men, perhaps because they are more aware of the social strata and are trying to increase their social status. Codeswitching Codeswitching allows a person to associate themselves with people and situations which they perhaps could not without being able to codeswitch. There are many different reasons for the occurrence of codeswitching. For example, Monica Heller studied a company in Montreal, where a language law dictates that French should be the language used at work. The employees of this company codeswitch in order to obey the law, and to treat each other with respect. The newly employed francophone codeswitches between French and English to ensure good relationships, conduct business and maintain the right to their quick promotion. Similarly, the Anglophones use French where possible to legitimise their presence. The employees codeswitch when joining a conversation, including another person to the conversation and bringing people together (p.333 course book). ...read more.

Conclusion

Shana Poplack (1980) suggests in her theory that a switch between languages occurs at points where 'the surface structure of the two languages map on to each other' (p.318 course book). However, Carol Myers-Scotton theory of a 'matrix language frame model' approaches the issue from a different perspective and argues that one language is seen as the main language into which the other language embeds itself. The word order of the matrix language dictates where single codeswitched words are placed and the sentence follows the grammatical structure of the matrix language: Unaweza kumpata amevaa nguo nyingine bright clothes other bright You can find her wearing other bright clothes. The word nguo (bright) follows the Swahili word order coming after 'other'. In English 'bright' would have come before the noun 'clothes' (p.318 course book). I would suggest that there is a mixture of both Poplack's and Myers-Scotton's theories, depending on the extent of the codeswitching. If whole sentences or clauses are switched then the grammar remains as it should for each language. Where single words are switched or more than two languages are used the speaker seems to follow Myers-Scotton's theory. When someone speaks the whole context of a situation is taken into account. The speaker's perception of the audience, the topic of conversation, the setting of the conversation and the types of social relationship are all considered before someone speaks. In this essay I have discussed the processes of codeswitching and style shifting. I have looked at different reasons for the occurrences of these processes and the motivations behind them. I have also discussed the grammatical constraints applied to the processes. ...read more.

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