The functions of classroom code-switching in the Siyanda district of the Northern Cape

Uys D. ; van Dulm O. (2011)


This paper reports on the findings of a study conducted in four secondary schools in the Siyanda District of the Northern Cape province of South Africa, with the aim of identifying the functions of code-switching in classroom interactions. Code-switching in these classrooms involves English, Afrikaans, Setswana, and isiXhosa, and goes against official school language policy in most cases. Instances of code-switching are categorised according to Myers-Scotton's (1993, 1998) markedness model, and the functions of the switches are identified. Code-switching is found to fulfil both academic and social functions. Specifically, code-switching is used (i) in explaining and clarifying subject content; (ii) in assisting learners in understanding and interpreting material; (iii) as a tool of teaching in confirming understanding and encouraging participation; (iv) in classroom management, such as maintaining learners' attention and reprimanding disruptive behaviour; and (v) for social functions, such as humour and as a marker of bilingual identity. The paper concludes that code-switching may be usefully employed as a classroom strategy. © NISC (Pty) Ltd.

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