Mixed-language texts and websites: a framework for analysis

Mark Sebba

Lancaster University, UK

WS126: New approaches to written codeswitching and multilingual texts

Mixed-language texts and websites: a framework for analysis

In the study of code-switching, priority has always been given to researching spoken language. Written phenomena have attracted much less attention, and while there exist several widely used frameworks for analysing spoken code-switching, there is no equivalent for written language mixing. Those analyses which have been done on written mixed language have tended to adapt analytical frameworks designed for spoken discourse. The lack of an independent theoretical framework for categorising and analysing written mixed-language texts is probably one reason for there being relatively little research in this area. Furthermore, the research that has been done has tended to look at written language texts which have some resemblances to spoken language (or are meant to represent spoken language): thus many types of text have been neglected.

In this paper I argue that the scope of research in mixed-language texts should be enlarged to include the study of mixed-language texts such as newspapers, magazines, websites and public signs which have a multilingual composition, in addition to the more usual bilingual letters, emails, internet fora etc. which have been studied to some extent. As the outline of a framework for studying mixed-language written texts, I propose:

(1) That the study of such texts needs to be embedded in a study of literacy practices, to understand how and in what context they are created and consumed.

(2) That mixed-language written genres need to be seen as a special case of mixed-language genres more generally, and that there is overlap between written and spoken modes.

(3) That a linguistic analysis must also engage with the physical and spatial nature of such texts, including aspects of the image such as font and layout on the page or screen, and the material embodiment of the text (e.g. as a newspaper or a web page).

Session: Workshop (part 1)
New approaches to written codeswitching and multilingual texts
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 09:00-10:30
room: 01