Code-Switching in Hyphenated American Novelists

Cecilia Montes-Alcalá

Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA

WS126: New approaches to written codeswitching and multilingual texts

Research on Spanish-English code-switching in the last five decades to date has primarily focused on the oral production of bilingual individuals. As multiple studies have proven, natural spoken code-switching is far from being a random phenomenon but rather it performs a number of specific socio-pragmatic functions. However, research on the written production of bilingual individuals still remains at an early stage. Moreover, whereas code-switching at the spoken level has traditionally led to social prejudice among bilinguals and monolinguals alike, it would appear that the increasing growth of bilingual literature in the United States shows that the mix of Spanish and English in writing has finally acquired some legitimacy.

Previous studies on code-switching in bilingual literature have been mainly concerned with Chicano poetry and/ or drama, as well as with the relationship between literary language and natural production. The research shows that code-switching in bilingual literature may be used for aesthetic purposes or as a source of credibility. It may also serve to communicate biculturalism, humor, criticism, ethnicity, and other stylistic purposes.

The aim of the present work is to investigate whether the socio-pragmatic functions typically ascribed to oral code-switching can also appear in bilingual literature. I hypothesize that similar functions may be found in a literary corpus along with other deviant, genre-specific uses. To this end, I analyzed selected bilingual novels written by hyphenated American authors who use Spanish and English in their works: Cuban-American Roberto G. Fernández’s La Vida es un Special, Nuyorican Giannina Braschi’s Yo-Yo Boing!, and three works by Mexican-American authors: Jim Sagel’s Unexpected Turn, Rolando Hinojosa’s Mi querido Rafa, and Mary Ann and Carlos Romero’s Los bilingos. These writers’ language choices reveal how bilingual individuals living in the hyphen—between two worlds and two cultures—can and must write in both languages in order to fully express themselves.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
New approaches to written codeswitching and multilingual texts
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:00-12:30
room: 01