08 June 2009

Code-switching vs. Mixed language

Linguists like to distinguish between code-switching and mixed language. For example, Daniel Long distinguishes Ogasawara Mixed Language (OML) from the expected code-switching in the bilingual community after the Pacific War: "OML differs in many significant ways from normal code-mixing or code-switching between English and Japanese. When Japanese code-mix, for example, they generally do NOT: (a) ignore honorifics (keigo), (b) ignore polite forms (teineigo), (c) use English pronouns, (d) incorporate English whole phrase structure, (e) use English phonology, or (f) use English counters. These are all significant features of OML."

The task of multilingual literary critics is simpler. For us, whether a poet code switches or uses mixed language is not of primary concern (so far, anyway). What is crucial is that readers realize that there are two (or more) languages working within the literary text, in addition to the language of literature (the latter is what critics refer to when they talk about "literary competence").

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