Authored by: Angel Y. M. Lin , David C. S. Li

The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  May  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415496476
eBook ISBN: 9780203154427
Adobe ISBN: 9781136578144


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Codeswitching (CS) is one of the best-known and most widely researched language-contact phenomena. Languages do not come into contact; people do. When speakers of one language are exposed to another language over a sustained period of time, they will become bilingual, albeit to differing extents. CS refers to ‘the alternating use of two languages in the same stretch of discourse by a bilingual speaker’ (Bullock and Toribio 2009: xii). CS is analogous to style shifting, which takes place within one and the same language. For example, in Hong Kong, newscasters may be using formal Cantonese when reporting ‘on air’, but they may use colloquial Cantonese with each other during the commercial break. When similar shifts occur across language boundaries, this will result in CS. CS may occur in writing as well as in speech, but by far the bulk of CS research to date is based on the analysis of naturally occurring bilingual speech data. For convenience of exposition, the term ‘bilingual’ is used synonymously here with ‘multilingual’, making reference to ‘two or more languages’.

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