LANGUAGE CHOICE

Posting by Ade Tuty Anggriany | 2:33 AM

In multilingual communities, speakers switch among languages or varieties as monolinguals switch among styles. Language choice is not arbitrary and not all speech communities are organized in the same way. Through the selection of one language over another or one variety of the same language over another speakers display what may be called ‘acts of identity’, choosing the groups with whom they wish to identity.
1. SOCIAL MULTILINGUALISM

The first step in understanding what choices are available to speakers is to gain some idea of what languages and varieties are available to them in a particular social context. Context here is the varieties made available either officially or not within boundaries of a nation-state.
There are two ways that most studies of societal bilingualism use to determine the linguistic composition in a nation-state, large-scale survey and census statistic. A census statistic operates under limitations of time and money, and thus of many facets such as extent of interference between languages, switching, etc. cannot be investigated in any detail. On the other hand, large-scale survey can yield data on bilingualism for a population of much greater size than any individual linguist or team could hope to survey in a lifetime.
As a result, there are two kinds of bilingualism, de facto bilingualism and de jure bilingualism. There are often fewer bilingual individuals in de jure bilingual states than in those where de facto bilingualism occurs. In case of de jure bilingualism, knowledge about the demographic concentration of particular ethnic minorities is necessary for the implementation of language legislation.
2. DOMAINS
A domain is an abstraction which refers to a sphere of activity representing a combination of specific times, settings and role relationships. For example, in Puerto Rican community in New York City, Spanish or English was used consistently in five domains: family, friendship, religion, employment, and education. The way in which these variables were manipulated determined the extent to which the domain configuration was likely to be perceived as congruent or incongruent.
In each domain there may be pressures of various kinds e.g. economic, administrative, cultural, political, religious, etc. which influence the bilingual towards use of one language rather than the other. Therefore, it is not possible to predict with absolute certainty which language an individual will use in a particular situation.
3. DIGLOSSIA
A situation where language or variety in a multilingual community serves a specialized function and is used for particular purposes is called as Diglossia. In Diglossia, there are H and L variety of language used by the people. The H and l varieties differ not only in grammar, phonology and vocabulary, but also with respect to a number of social characteristics, namely function, prestige, literary heritage, acquisition, standardization, and stability.
Diglossic societies are marked not only by this compartmentalization of varieties, but also by restriction of access, which can be illustrated in the importance attached by community members to using the right variety in the appropriate context.
Then, the relationship between individual bilingualism and societal Diglossia is not a necessary or causal one. Either phenomenon can occur without the other one. Diglossia both with and without bilingualism may be a relatively stable, long-term arrangement, depending on the circumstances.
4. LANGUAGE SHIFT AND DEATH
There are many bilingual situations which do not last for more than three generations. In cases such as bilingualism without diglossia, the two languages compete for use in the same domains. Speakers are unable to establish the compartmentalization necessary for survival of the L variety. In such instances a shift to another language may be unavoidable. There is a story of language diversity in Australia. The Aboriginal languages have been in decline since their speakers came into contact with Europeans in the eighteenth century. Some linguists predict that if nothing is done, almost all Aboriginal languages will be dead by the year 2000.
Many smaller languages are dying out due to the spread of a few world languages, such as English, French, Chinese, Russian, and Arabic. Choices made by individuals on an everyday basis have an effect on the long-term situation of the languages concerned. Language shift generally involves bilingualism (often with diglossia) as a stage on the way to eventual monolingualism in a new language. Typically a community which was once monolingual becomes bilingual as a result of contact with another group and becomes transitionally bilingual in the new language until their own language is given up altogether.
There is an illustration of this which is found in an investigation of the use of German and Hungarian in the Austrian village of Oberwart. Villagers who were formerly Hungarian monolinguals, have over the past few hundred years become increasingly bilingual, and now the community is in the process of a shift to German. Once the process of shift has begun in certain domains and the functions of the languages are reallocated, the prediction is that it will continue until the whole community has shifted to German.
In some cases shift occurs as a result of forced or voluntary immigration to a place where it is not possible to maintain one’s native language. The ultimate loss of a language is termed language death. Many factors are responsible for language shift and death, e.g. religious and educational background, settlement patterns, ties with the homeland, extent of exogamous marriage, attitudes of majority and minority language groups, government policies concerning language and education, etc. the inability of minorities to maintain the home as an intact domain for the use of their language has often been decisive for language shift.
In a community whose language is under threat, it is difficult for children to acquire the language fully. Language undergoing shift often display characteristic types of changes, such as simplification of complex grammatical structures. These changes are often the result of decreased use of the language in certain contexts, which may lead to a loss of stylistic options. The degree of linguistic assimilation may serve as an index of social assimilation of a group. It depends on many factors, such as receptiveness of the group to the other culture and language, possibility of acceptance by the dominant group, degree of similarity between the two groups, etc.
Although the existence of bilingualism, diglossia, and code-switching have often been cited as factors leading to language death, in some cases code-switching and diglossia are positive forces in maintaining bilingualism. In many communities switching between languages serves important functions.
5. CODE-SWITCHING
Here are some utterances which are switched by other languages:
1. kio ke six, seven hours te school de vic spend karde ne, they are speaking English all the time (Panjabi/English bilingual in Britain): ‘Because they spend six or seven hours a day at school, they are speaking English all the time’
2. Will you rubim off? Ol man will come (Tok Pisin/English bilingual child in Papua New Guinea): ‘Will you rub [that off the blackboard]? The men will come’
3. Sano että tulla tänne että I’m very sick (Finnish/English bilingual): ‘Tell them to come here that I’m very sick’
4. Kodomotachi liked it (Japanese/English bilingual): ‘The children liked it’
5. Have agua, please (Spanish/English bilingual child): ‘Have water, please’
6. Won o arrest a single person (Yoruba/English bilingual): ‘They did not arrest a single person’
7. This morning I hantar my baby tu dekat babysitter tu lah (Malay/English bilingual): ‘This morning I took my baby to the babysitter’
In these cases we can see that a switch of languages can be occurred whether in the initial, in the middle, or in the last of the sentence. Instances where a switch or mixing of languages occurs within the boundaries of a clause or sentence have been termed intra-sentential switches. While where the switching occurs at clause boundaries is called inter-sentential switches. Interlocutor suggests that the ideal bilingual switches from one language to another according to appropriate changes in the speech situation, but not in an unchanged speech situation. It has often been said that bilingualism is a step along the road to linguistic extinction.
There is an approach has investigated speakers’ reasons for switching on the assumption that the motivation for switching is basically stylistic and that switching is to be treated as a discourse phenomenon which cannot be satisfactorily handled in terms of the internal structure of sentences. Various grammatical principles have been proposed for switching, such the one called the equivalence constraint, which predicts that code switches will tend to occur at points where the juxtaposition of elements from the two languages does not violate a syntactic rule of either language. This means that a language switch ought to take place only at boundaries common to both languages and switching should not occur between any two sentence elements unless they are normally ordered in the same way.
Many linguists have stressed the point that switching is a communicative option available to a bilingual member of a speech community on much the same basis as switching between styles or dialects is an option for the monolingual speaker. A speaker may switch for a variety of reasons, for example to redefine the interaction as appropriate to a different social arena, or to avoid, through continual code-switching, defining the interaction in terms of any social arena. The latter function of avoidance is an important one because it recognizes that code-switching often serves as a strategy of neutrality or as a means to explore which code is most appropriate and acceptable in a particular situation.



1 Comment
  1. Anonymous September 16, 2011 at 11:09 PM  

    Language in society by suzanne romaine