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Code switching

Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
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Joined: Aug 26, 2000
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Not sure what you thought when read the subject line , but this is an official linguistic term, which describes one particular feature of bilinguals' speech, namely switching from one language to another within the same conversation. "Code", as I understand, is a generic term designed to avoid "language vs. dialect" attribution problem, so it's simply "language". Code switching works on macro-level (now this is *not* an official term) when, say, immigrants speak their native language and switch to "official" language when local people enter the room, but I am more interested in code switching on micro-level (this isn't an official term either ) In particular, how it works for "inner speech" or thinking.
Trying to monitor my inner speech I noticed that when I plan on writing something in English, I think in English. When I am writing a letter to Russia, I think in Russian. The most interesting, however, are cases when I am not going to write anything, so I do not have any reason to prefer one language over another. In what language thinking happens then?
Eva Hoffman, in her "Lost in translation" book made this observation:
Much of what I read is lost on me, lost in the wash and surf of inexactly understood words. And yet, chagrined though I am by this, I soon find that I can do very well in my courses. I believe this happens not only despite but also because of my handicap: because I have so little language. Like any disability, this one has produced its own compensatory mechanisms, and my mind, relatively deprived of words, has become a deft instrument of abstraction. In my head, there is no ongoing, daily monologue to distract me, no layers of verbal filigree to peel away before the skeleton of an argument can become clear.

I enjoyed this freedom from words too -- very liberating experience, but I won't digress. Unfortunately, it did not last too long. By now I absorbed enough clich�s and stock words to satisfy my unpretentious needs for self-expression. What my inner speech (aka thinking) is now, is a collage of two stocks of words and two grammars.
More to follow...


Uncontrolled vocabularies
"I try my best to make *all* my posts nice, even when I feel upset" -- Philippe Maquet
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
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On which level break-line lies, where does English merge with Russian? It's difficult to detect how inner language works. You see, you either think about something, or you think about how you think about something. These are rare spontaneous flashes that shed light on what's inside of my mind...
On which level -- pretty much on every level.
1. Sentence level - syntax
To borrow a word from one language and to stick it into a sentence isn't too big a trick, no need even to be particularly bilingual, this happens all the time with borrowed words. As I can tell, groups of words and whole phrases are intermixed freely also. Here is more interesting case:
[I do not do that]<sub>Rus</sub> [anymore]<sub>Eng</sub>.
I started the sentence thinking in Russian, and then "anymore" popped up "naturally". Why "naturally", because there is no parallel Russian construction that would have stress (anymore) at the end. Russian analog of "anymore" is normally in the middle of the sentence, which makes the whole construction weaker (in my opinion, anyway So what happened here, I bet when I started my sentence in Russian, I unconsciously already had [... anymore] <sub>Eng</sub> construction in mind, and it governed the whole production.
2. Word level - formation
Once I saw a small truck full of junk, and the word "junkovoz" came to my mind. "Junk" is junk, "voz" is a Russian root which means "to carry, transport", it is used in a few Russian portmanteau words like "benzovoz" - a gasoline tanker. "o" is always used to combine parts in Russian words that are made of two other words. So here we have:
[junk]<sub>Eng</sub>-[o]<sub>Rus</sub>-[voz]<sub>Rus</sub>
3. Word level - inflection
I was reading an article (in Russian) about Russian suffixes and their meaning. I was going to save one particularly interesting paragraph, and thinking about how to name it, I got "suffixes" word in mind (I am not too creative ). Except that the word itself was Russian, I mean Russian word for "suffix" is "suffix", only written in Russian letters. And this is how I was thinking about it -- visually in Russian letters. Now instead of making plural according to the rules of Russian grammar, I made plural according to English rules
[Suffix]<sub>Rus</sub>-[es]<sub>Eng</sub>
Thank you for your attention, if you do not yet. I know we have some native speakers of Bilingualy here, your contribution is welcome. Tim can ever rhyme his observations.
[ October 24, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Timothy Chen Allen
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Joined: Mar 16, 2003
Posts: 161
What an honor to be mentioned by name in a post! I think about this a lot too, as I am a native English (well, American) speaker living in Barcelona, which is one of those uniquely bilingual places to begin with. Every child growing up in Barcelona learns both Castillean Spanish and Catalan. A *lot* of code switching goes on here.
Although it is not correct, I'm going to say "Spanish" instead of "Castillean Spanish" from here on out.
I learned the term "Code Switching" as a layman's term. It referred to the (rude) practice of switching into a different language to say something to your friend which you don't want the others to understand. For example, my wife is from Barcelona. We both speak Catalan and Spanish (my Catalan is not as good as my Spanish, but we get by). My Mother also speaks Spanish (she is from Panam�). When we are all together, occasionally my wife and I will say a few words in Catalan if we don't want Mom to understand it. We know it's rude, but it is also thoroughly irresistible.
The other kind of code switching happens to me more or less constantamente. On occasion I will be saying something in Spanish and the last words will come out in English. This tends to happen to me with very idiomatic phrases ("By the way", "after all"). Oddly enough, I am thinking in Spanish when this happens. I don't know why it happens. It also happens "a reves" as well. Sometimes (Jeez, I just thought, "A veces"), I get a Spanish phrase so stuck in my head that I can't think of the equivalent in English. This happens when the structure in English and Spanish is very different. The other day, I said to my two year old son, "please don't hitme the head". Referring to your body parts is very different in Spanish-- it's pretty much done the way I said to my son.
I don't have any really good insites to add here, except to say that being bilingual is cool. You get plenty of insights into how it is that your thought processes happen.
No rhyme yet, Map. I'll work on it after I've bathed my son.


Timothy Chen Allen
Learn Spanish in Washington, DC
John Smith
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Another aspect of code switching is contextual. I find English more expressive for business type communications (for its clarity and brevity), while Russian is more expressive for emotional communications (for its abundance of synonyms, shades of meaning, and word forms). Another explanation is, of course, that my English vocabulary is probably only 1/10 that of the Russian vocabulary. Yet something tells me that even if I had equal mastery of both languages, I would use English to talk to Pythagoras, and Russian to talk to Goethe.
Jim Yingst
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Now, whether Pythagoras and Goethe would understand you, that's a separate question.


"I'm not back." - Bill Harding, Twister
Donald R. Cossitt
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Then there is Greek:
I make love to my wife - Eros (erotic)
I love my friend - Storge (affection)
I love my nieghbor - Phileo (brotherly)
I love my children - Agape (unconditional)

Is it obvious what we are thinking when we say these things or what we are feeling?
And is it possible to do all at once without thinking but not without feeling?
Map, when you write your letters home do you think in Russian because your readers speak Russian? Or because the proper emotive & comotive would not exist if you did not have the romance, memories and common expression in mind if you wrote English? Even if your readers understood English?
[ October 26, 2003: Message edited by: Donald R. Cossitt ]

doco
Mapraputa Is
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DC: Map, when you write your letters home do you think in Russian because your readers speak Russian?
Yes.
Or because the proper emotive & comotive would not exist if you did not have the romance, memories and common expression in mind if you wrote English? Even if your readers understood English?
Interesting question. I prefer to use English whenever possible when communicating with Russians here, but that's partly because our shared "reality" is "English". If some of my correspondents in Russia knew English... It would be a mixture of English and Russian, I think.
There is a book about it: Government and codeswitching: Explaining American Finnish. From review:
There are three types of codeswitches in the data: intra-, inter- and extrasentential switches. The main focus of her study is on the patterns across intrasentential switches, which account for 30% of the total of switches in the data.
The intrasentential switches to be accounted for can be divided
into insertional (92%), alternational and clausal switches. Out of the 92% of insertional switches, 68% involve nouns and NPs, which suggests a borrowability or switchability hierarchy where the elements with the most capacity for reference such as nouns tend to be switched the most.
Poplack et al.'s (1989) Equivalence Constraint, which stipulates that "switches of code tend to occur at points where the syntactic rules of the two languages match and the rules of neither language are violated"
http://saussure.linguistlist.org/cfdocs/new-website/LL-WorkingDirs/pubs/reviews/get-review.cfm?SubID=3815

My own observations confirm the last statement, although author's data show it isn't always true. Maybe code switching just easier along some "natural" break-lines. I had "valency" methaphor in mind, and gues what, this term is actually used in linguistics, although in different sense.
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsValency.htm
[ October 26, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Donald R. Cossitt
buckaroo
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Map: when you used the word "valency" (not being familiar with in the context you bring up) it is interesting that IMMEDIATELY the idea of 'valence' from chemistry came to mind: ie

a. The capacity of an atom or group of atoms to combine in specific proportions with other atoms or groups of atoms.

So context is important? Possibly moreso than thought or feeling?
One mistake I make in trying to learn Java is asking myself how it would be done in VB (object based v. object oriented) :baugh:. So I must forsake most of what I know about VB syntax in order to grasp the paradigms of Java - tough to do (for me).
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
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Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
the idea of 'valence' -- I had exactly chemical analogy of valence in mind, when thinking how parts of sentences (atoms) from different languages can join to form a sentence (molecule).
I see [what?] - here you can substitute [what] to any constraction in another language that can answer "what" question, Noun Phrase (NP) for example:
[I see]<sub>X</sub> [a tree] <sub>Y</sub>.
[I see] <sub>X</sub>[the tree you told me about] <sub>Y</sub>
Now X and Y languages can be the same of they can be different languages.
So context is important? Possibly moreso than thought or feeling?
Not sure I can answer this question, further investigations are needed...
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Eugene Kononov:
I find English more expressive for business type communications (for its clarity and brevity), while Russian is more expressive for emotional communications (for its abundance of synonyms, shades of meaning, and word forms).


I've noticed when translating literature that the two languages have a different rhythm of expression. The Russian thought process is much more quick and dynamic, while English, because of its more rigid structure and grammar, tends to be more subtle and prolonged about getting to the point. That's why it's so hard to translate Russian dialogue (not to mention poetry!) into English; you're constantly stumbling over all the obligatory English predicates, articles, and the like. On the other hand, this more drawn-out rhythm makes English more effective for understatement and the subtle acerbic barbs that we native-speakers are so fond of.
P.S. (I hope this thread is still topical; I only recently came across it, originally believing it to be some irrelevant Java-related discussion . )
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
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Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
I find English more expressive for business type communications (for its clarity and brevity), while Russian is more expressive for emotional communications (for its abundance of synonyms, shades of meaning, and word forms).
There is another aspect. A foreign language we learn as adults doesn't work the same way native language works. Its words came abstract, they do not cause the same immediate emotional response. Insults in a foreign language, for example, do not work too well. I read somewhere there are two totally different areas in cortex that are responsible for a native an a foreign language.
I didn't quote Eva Hoffman in his thread yet? Then it's about time.
But mostly, the problem is that the signifier has become severed from the signified. The words I learn now don't stand for things in the same unquestioned way they did in my native tongue. "River" in Polish was a vital sound, energized with the essence of riverhood, of my rivers, of my being immersed in rivers. "River" in English is cold-a word without an aura. It has no accumulated associations for me, and it does not give off the radiating haze of connotation. It does not evoke.
When my friend Penny tells me that she's envious, or happy, or disappointed, I try laboriously to translate not from English to Polish but from the word back to its source, to the feeling from which it springs. Already, in that moment of strain, spontaneity of response is lost. And anyway, the translation doesn't work. I don't know how Penny feels when she talks about envy. The word hangs in a Platonic stratosphere, a vague prototype of all envy, so large, so all-encompassing that it might crush me-as might disappointment or happiness

"Platonic" definition is very accurate. With a foreign language you re-discover the world, but this is a world of Platonic ideas, not the world of things. I am almost sure I prefer English for writing because what is written in English seems more "objective", absolute, deprived of personal perspectives. Of course, the fact that English is a language of international communication contributes a lot to this illusion, I am not sure how it would work with any other language.
The last quote:
I am becoming a living avatar of structuralist wisdom; I cannot help knowing that words are just themselves. But it's a terrible knowledge, without any of the consolations that wisdom usually brings. It does not mean that I'm free to play with words at my wont; anyway, words in their naked state are surely among the least satisfactory play objects. No, this radical disjoining between word and thing is a desiccating alchemy, draining the world not only of significance but of its colors, striations, nuances-its very existence. It is the loss of a living connection.

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"When one this sentence into the German to translate wanted, would one the fact exploit, that the word order and the punctuation already with the German conventions agree." -- Douglas R. Hofstadter
 
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