30 November 2010

Code-switching as characterization technique

There is an interesting idea in the [unedited] abstract of "The code mixing and the social situation in the language of narration and the characters conversation in the novel 30 Hari Mencari Cinta" by Jeffry Widiatijono:

"Kachru (1978) proposes that code-mixing is the use of one or two languages which has constant linguistic transfer from one to another language by a speaker. As linguistic function, code-mixing usually appears when the speaker mixes up the language he/she usually uses with another language. In proving his idea, the writer of this study wants to reveal how the code-mixing appears in daily conversation. In this case, the novel 30 Hari Mencari Cinta has been chosen to become source of the data. In this novel, such code-mixing appears both in the language of narration and the characters' conversation mostly in informal ways. In the language of narration, for one thing, there can be found distinct codes and types of code-mixing as what Kachru states. In the characters' conversation, such distinct codes and types of code-mixing can also be found. In dealing with the social situation, Fishman (1971) states that social situation is constructed when individuals interact in appropriate role-relationships with each other, in the appropriate locales for these role-relationships, and discuss topics appropriate to their role-relationships. This is clear enough since in each conversation, those three terms can be found either in formal or informal language. The social
situation in the novel is varied depending on how close the relationship among characters is, and it helps the writer of the novel express how the situation of the characters in various ways. In this case, the social situation makes the story in the novel more varied."

Widiatijono appears to have discovered that the use of different languages within conversations in a novel serves as a clue to characterization.  This is an idea that should answer the need of graduate students looking for a new angle to classic multilingual works (there are hundreds of these works, as well as hundreds of graduate students in search of a thesis topic).  Study the conversations in these works, see how the use of more than one language is deliberate on the part of the author (not the character), and find out what the aesthetic purpose of the author is as far as characterization is concerned.

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