Code-switching for entertainment

Galina Chirsheva

Cherepovets State University, Russian Federation


The reasons for code-switching in bilingual conversation have been studied in a number of works (Auer 1995; 2003; Appel and Muysken 1987; Gumperz 1982; Jorgensen 2003; Li Wei 1998; Myers-Scotton 1997; 2002; 2006; Poplack 1980, among others), but little has been written about code-switches for entertainment and humour (Moyer 2003; Rampton 2003; Woolard 1988).

Code-switches from Russian to other languages are often used by Russian people for different reasons. One can hear new foreign words or phrases everywhere: at home, in public places, on the radio, on TV, etc. Inserted into Russian sentences in certain situations, they can produce humorous effect felt by those who are competent in the interacting languages. Such code-switching is among the sources for puns and jokes in comedians’ performances.

The main objective of the paper is to show how structural characteristics of code-switches, of the CPs in which they are inserted, and the parameters of the situations in which the bilingual utterances occur, are combined to achieve humorous effect. Partly, this effect can be explained by some typological characteristics of interacting languages, which will also be taken into consideration. The structure of code-switches will be analyzed within the framework of the Matrix Language Frame model (Myers-Scotton 1993, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2006, etc.).

When young people wish to express their ideas and emotions in an unusual way and to produce humorous effect, they switch to units of other codes. Especially popular such code-switching is among those students who learn foreign languages. They enjoy using code-switches in order to relax and improve their mood. When they are tired or nervous after University classes they make each other feel better by inserting code-switches of certain structures into a Russian morphosyntactic frame.

University teachers (lecturers and professors) at Foreign languages Department also code-switch from Russian to English or German at lectures or classes to make everybody relax. Besides, teachers of English or German use code-switches for fun in their informal conversations with each other.

The data for the research (more than 400 utterances) have been extracted from the speech of senior students (n = 50) and teachers (n = 20) of English and German languages departments of a Russian University. The speech was tape-recorded or written down immediately after it had been fixed at least once a week (for about one hour) for six semesters at classes and from informal conversations of students and teachers in the University building and outside. Besides, those students who attended lectures and seminars on bilingual speech were given the task to collect utterances with code-switches at home and in public places. They analyzed and discussed code-switches and explained why and how they were used for fun. Their own bilingual puns and jokes invented to illustrate the humorous effect achieved by code-switches will also be analyzed.

Session: POSTERS:Focus on language policy, literacy, education, identity
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 13:00-15:45
room: foyer