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Code Alternation and Alignment in an International School
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1730-5463
2009 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Bilingual research has been characterized by a “monologic understanding of verbal communication” which most code-switching (CS) studies have shared (Cromdal, 2000: 40). Such understandings have tended to distinguish between cognition and situated language use and often linked CS to compensating for linguistic deficiency (Backus, 1999) or adhering to sociolinguistic norms (Blom & Gumpers, 1972). Monologic assumptions have, in my view, significantly limited analytical perspectives on the “intricate underlying operations” of bilingual communicative practices (Grosjean, 1992).

A dialogic stance on human communication and, by implication, bilingual interaction challenges the sufficiency of psychological, linguistic and sociolinguistic explanations of bilingual language alternation practices (Cromdal, 2000). The implication of Bakhtin’s emphasis on the situatedness and mediative power of all communication is that bilingualism is primarily a social phenomenon. A recognition of the intersubjective nature of sense-making affords the prospect of appreciating code alternation dynamics in multilingual settings which go beyond accounts based on linguistic constraint (Poplack, 1980) domain-specific language distribution (Ferguson, 1959) and repairing communication trouble (Schegloff, Jefferson, & Sacks, 1977). Bakhtin’s claim that understanding is inherently dialogic and requires response has prompted an interest in exploring how the values and qualities of different languages brought into communicative play with each other can aid participants to realize their meanings and reach intersubjective understanding.

My PhD research project is an ethnographic study of the bilingual interaction among eighth-year pupils and their teachers in an international school. Fieldwork data of bilingual communication practices and patterns are being collected in the classroom by means of field notes as well as audio and video film recordings. Several Bakhtinian concepts are proving fruitful as analytical tools for this study. These include addressivity, heteroglossia and counter word  comprehended by the basic paradigm of dialogicality .

Addressivity, “the quality of turning to someone”, (Bakhtin, 1986:99) indicates Bakhtin’s broad view of human communication as a complex system of dialogic interrelationships into which voiced utterances are woven as responses to previous utterances, address others and anticipate further response. Initial analysis of classroom data suggests that addressivity with its relational and affective dimensions, extending retrospectively (communicative history) as well as prospectively (communicative future), governs bilingual language choice and use powerfully.

Baktin’s concept of appropriation, making language one’s own, (1981:294) may be seen as the generator of the phenomenon that language is constantly undergoing ideological change, stratifying, as individuals wrench words from other people’s usages and make them serve their own communicative purposes (Bakhtin, 1981:271/2; Voloshinov, 1973:94). So language is a site of strife between centripetal and centrifugal forces at play on the frontline of communicative engagement and the ensuing struggle between linguistic system and situated performance is boundary-breaking and mind-forming (ibid.). Idiosyncratic appropriation and subsequent language diversification participate in a climate of heteroglossia, the multiplicity of ideological accents, world views and intentional possibilities crisscrossing language life (Moraes, 1996: 22). For the purpose of my study, heteroglossia has been useful in legitimizing a decoupling of code from (national) language and recognizing hybrid versions or mixed vernaculars in bilingual code work not, for the participants, as alternation between two or more languages, but as a single, integrated, identity-creating communicative code (Alvarez-Cáccamo, 1998).

The Bakhtinian notion of counter word reflects the assumption that meaning emerges when two or more voices engage each other in dialogic interanimation (Voloshinov, 1973:102). Understanding is “dialogic in nature” (ibid) and responsive (Bakhtin, 1986:68) in that it emerges as a consequence of an individual response, not as a condition for response; it is precipitated by an active counter move that aligns itself to and confronts the words of another’s utterance. In view of this, I have hypothesized that bilingual communication mediates the possibility of responding to utterances in novel and different ways for the sake of making sense of what is happening. In my study, I have developed the concept of counter word to code-countering. I suggest that language alternation or mixing within a speaker’s utterance in social and institutional bilingual interaction may at times be better explained by the striving to explore or expand emerging meanings rather than to simply to express or explicate ready-realized messages.

With the aid of these Bakhtinian concepts for analytical work, the value of a dialogic stance on bilingual language alternation and juxtaposition is tested against empirical data gathered in an international school classroom setting.

Finally, Baktin’s insistence that language use – utterances and voices in relation to each other – is grounded in concrete social situations and mediates social interaction suggests that bilingual language production is both contextually sensitive and central in shaping its own unfolding context. Such a view of social interaction invites an attempt to marry sociocultural and conversation analysis approaches (one I hope to achieve) in order to better grasp the contingent and constitutive nature of code work.

References

Alvarez-Cáccamo, C. (1998) ‘From ‘switching code’ to ‘code-switching’: Towards a reconceptualisation of communicative codes’. In P. Auer (ed.) Code-switching in Conversation (pp. 29-48). London: Routledge.

Backus, A. (1999) ‘Mixed Native Languages: A Challenge to the Monolithic View of Language’. Topics in Language Disorders; 19(4):11-22.

Bakhtin, M.M. (1984). Problems of Dostoevsky’s poetics. Ed. and trans. C. Emerson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986) Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Ed. C. Emerson & M. Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Blom, J-P & Gumpers, J.J. (1972) ’Social meaning in linguistic structure: Code-switching in Norway. In J.J. Gumperz and D. Hymes (ed.s) Directions in Sociolinguistics. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston.

Cromdal, J. (2000) Code-Switching for all Practical Purposes. Linköping Studies in Arts and Science 223.

Ferguson, C.A. (1959) ‘Diglossia’. Word, 15: 325-340.

Grosjean, F. (1992) ‘Another View of Bilingualism’. In R.J. Harris (ed.) Cognitive Processing in Bilinguals. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

Moraes, M. (1996) Bilingual Education: A Dialogue with the Bakhtin Circle. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Poplack, S. (1980) ‘Sometimes I’ll start a sentence in Spanish y termino en espanol’. Linguistics: An international Review, 18/7-8: 581-618.

Schegloff, E., Jefferson, G. & Sacks, H., (1977) ‘The preference for sel-correction in the organization of repair in conversation’. Language 53(2): 361-82.

Voloshinov, V. (1973) Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (L. Matejka and I. R. Titunik, trans.). New York and London: Seminar Press.

 

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009.
National Category
Pedagogy Learning
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-69358OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-69358DiVA, id: diva2:1254045
Conference
The Second International Interdisciplinary Conference on Perspectives and Limits of Dialogism in Mikhail Bakhtin, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden, June 3-5, 2009
Available from: 2018-10-08 Created: 2018-10-08 Last updated: 2018-10-08Bibliographically approved

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