Electronic writing in multilingual context. The concept of basic language for Arabic-French code-switching


DYALANG (CNRS - Université de Rouen), France

WS120: Code-switching in electronic writing: The levelling and maintaining of linguistic borders

From the analysis of mobile-mediated communications (MMT) and emails of French-Arabic speakers, I would try to elucidate the concept of basic language for the code-switching.

If we leave the conclusions of certain researchers such as Lipski (1978) , Pfaff (1979) , Laroussi (1996) and Woolford (1983) - to quote only those - according to which code-switching would combine two unilingual grammars leaving intact the characteristics of the two languages involved in interaction, theoretically, we would be able to determine, each time mixed utterances are produced, the basic language in which the speaker holds his speech. On this subject, George Lüdi (1998: 146) identifies four “premises” of which I do not retain, in this text, only the two first ones:
- “we can identify the basic language without ambiguity”;
- “cod-switching between the basic language and the embedded language takes place “one line”, the two varieties being definitely distinguishable for the speakers as well as for the linguist. The speakers also employ them inside the same interaction or with other interlocutors.” That does not seem at all obvious to us at least for the oral data. What about written productions? What about electronic writing in particular? Which are thus the criteria which make it possible to identify the basic language? Which are the constituents of the sentence able to determine the basic language? If we take the generative grammar like model of reference, is it about the verb phrase, the noun phrase or other constituents of the sentence? It is noted that there are two approaches: one is linguistic (syntactic, more precisely); the other is interactional. The first one seeks to identify the constituents up to determining the basic language: for example, for a mixed French-Arabic sentence, it would be regarded as at Arab base if its verb phrase is Arab, or conversely. The second one stresses the difficulties in classifying the sentences whose verb phrases or noun phrases are mixed. How does one have to classify them? Undoubtedly like mixed sentences, but when it is a question of code-switching, mixture is, in theory, a basic data. According to this approach, and, concerning this same French-Arabic sentence, it is less relevant, in a situation of multilingualism, to know if the sentence is Arab or French than to consider that utterances combine to form only one message, whose interpretation depends on the comprehension of the two parts. The assumption which underlies our research fits rather in this step. The analysis of French-Arabic emails and (MMT) should enable us to validate or invalidate it and clarify the theoretical debate about code-switching.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
Code-switching in electronic writing: The levelling and maintaining of linguistic borders
Friday, April 4, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 01