The micro-macro connections of children’s code-switch




The Markedness Model (Myers-Scotton, 1993) and the Rational Choice Model (Myers-Scotton & Bolonyai 2001) have made a major contribution to the study of code-switching for enabling a combination of both the macro and the micro perspectives in the analysis of language choice. However, there seems to be a link missing between these two perspectives: the participants’ views on language and identity issues. I argue that, in order to understand the interactional meaning of the use of different languages by the speakers, it is necessary to have information about their views, beliefs and values.

In this paper, I examine two short extracts of oral interaction between a focal child and his family and friends in London, UK. These extracts are part of a larger study which focuses on language and identity issues within the Brazilian community in London, in which thirteen families (where the mother is Brazilian and the father is of another nationality) with children aged between 5 and 12 years old participated. I adopt a qualitative approach to this study and conduct ‘playful’ interviews with the children as well as recordings of oral interactions ‘at home’.

I combine macro and micro levels of analysis to demonstrate the relationship between language and identity. More precisely, I introduce a ‘brought from within’ interpretation of language choice to the Markedness Model of Code Switching. In other words, I argue that the internal factors guiding the socio-psychological associations unconsciously made by the speakers when making language choices need to be addressed overtly so proper judgement can be made of the participants’ assumptions of the influence of their language choices on their interactive goals. With this purpose, I developed a set of methods in order to allow the speakers’ usually unconscious associations to be ‘brought from within’. These methods are explained in this paper and evidence of the child’s and his mother’s views on language and identity is provided as a link between the macro and the micro perspectives in the analysis of the language choices they make.
- ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Myers-Scotton, Carol. 1993. Social Motivations for Codeswitching: Evidence from Africa, Oxford: Clarendon.

Myers-Scotton, Carol. & Bolonyai, Agnes. 2001. ‘Calculating speakers: codeswitching in a rational choice model’ in Language in Society, 30, 1-28.

Session: Paper session
Code-switching 1
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 10