24 November 2010

Christian Simamora

Here is a concluding paragraph from Najmah Soraya Wahdani's "Analysis of Code Switching and Code Mixing in the Novel Macarin Anjing by Christian Simamora":

"From the ten reasons why bilingual people switch or mix their codes, there are nine reasons that can be used to explain the code switching and code mixing in the novel Macarin Anjing by Christian Simamora.  Most of the characters switch or mix their codes in order to express their group identity, which means that they belong to a particular speech community, of which the members are able to use both English and bahasa Indonesia in their dialogues.  On the other hand, none of the characters switch or mix their codes in order to exclude other people when a comment is intended for only a limited audience.  It is mainly because the characters do code switching and code mixing only within their own group (bilingual community).  So, they feel that they do not have to exclude other people since they can use Bahasa Indonesia outside their group."

Linguists make a big deal out of group identity as a reason for code-mixing.  That is only one, in fact not even quite a significant one, of the reasons a writer uses other languages in an erstwhile monolingual text.  Writers do not see language as transparent, that is, not something that stays invisible while pointing to whatever it refers to.  On the contrary, writers see both what is being referred to and what is doing the referring.  The sounds and sometimes even the spelling or visual look of the foreign words are crucial to what a writer is trying to do.  Writers do not write merely for an audience that knows all the languages being used in a text, which is what is implied by the linguistic dictum that code-mixing is used for group identity.  Readers do not have to know the exact dictionary meanings of foreign words in a text.  All readers have to know is how the words look and sound; the meaning can always be deduced from context.  Writers harness the resources of other languages, importing not just the sounds and visual looks of words, but also the cultures that gave rise to those words, in order to make their meanings clearer and more complex.  This is one reason we cannot leave the analysis of multilingual texts to linguists.  Only literary critics can fully understand and appreciate multilingual texts.  That is why they have the obligation to lead readers (particularly monolingual ones) to this understanding and appreciation.

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