The functions of codeswitching in a multicultural and multilingual high school

Rose, Suzanne (2006-12)

Thesis (MPhil (General Linguistics))—University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


The aim of the present study is to identify the functions of codeswitching in intercultural communication occurring in multilingual high school classrooms. The definition of “codeswitching” adopted here is that of Myers-Scotton (1993: 1), who states that the term is used to refer to alternations of linguistic varieties within the same conversation. The present study considers the use of codeswitching between Afrikaans and English by learners and teachers in the classroom. The study was conducted in a multicultural and multilingual high school in the Western Cape in five classrooms of three different subjects. The nature of the multilingual context of the classrooms is diverse and includes learners form various sociolinguistic backgrounds. Being a predominantly English school meant that most learners have English as an L1 and Afrikaans and/or isiXhosa as an L2. The data for the study were collected by the researcher by means of observations and audio recordings of the lessons and by a questionnaire completed by learners and teachers. The data collection was carried out over a period of three weeks and data were analyzed within the framework of Myers-Scotton (1993) Markedness model for codeswitching. According to Myers-Scotton’s (1998: 4) Markedness Model, markedness relates to the choice of one linguistic variety over other possible varieties. Myer-Scotton (1993) classifies codeswitching into four different types namely marked, unmarked, sequential, and exploratory codeswitching. Within these types a number of functions of codeswitching in the classrooms were identified, for example clarification, expansion, and translation. These functions are discussed in relation to the data from the questionnaire.

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