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Code-Switching

My group is responsible for interviewing the age group of 23-39. Comparing to another groups, interviewees of this group are so diverse in terms of their education background and occupation. I mostly conduct my survey via phone calls and I have already acquainted all the 4 interviewees beforehand. The first part of the paper sets the scene for data analysis whereby the complex motivations and attitude involved will be explored while the second part is devoted to examine the methodology being used.
Part One
From my group??™s data, all respondents code-mix in which nearly all of them completed high school and half of them finished bachelor or master degree. It can be concluded that code-mixing between Cantonese and English is so commonplace among educated Hongkongers. While English divides people into those who know the language or don??™t ,it implies the intentions of speakers to impress the interlocutor of their knowledge of English, by doing so, to construct their identity or express solidarity and membership to the middle-class. This is known as metaphorical switching which means each code represents or symbolizes a set of social meanings.
It can be observed that the domain is one of the crucial factors behind bilingual??™s code-mixing behavior. Among the most prominent domains are school, workplace and family. In each of the domains, many discourse topics require the register (cultural or field specific vocabulary) in the guest language and therefore trigger code-mixing behavior. One of the interviewees pointed out that in the school domain, code-mixed English expressions range from technical jargon to everyday school vocabulary such as curriculum, lexical, grammar, presentation and lecture etc. Another respondent recalled the way how her colleagues sprinkle English words in Cantonese-dominating sentences in office chit-chat. In such context, mostly noun or noun phrases in English will be mixed. Example will be contract, form, follow up, memo, appointment and quota etc.
Apart from the domain model, the ???principle of economy??? will be another factor. This principle is also known as ???principle of the least effort???. Having choices of two distinct codes, speakers often select the less complex one to maximize cognitive economy.
When combining all the data from the four groups, it is interesting to note that the general attitude of Hong Kong people towards code-switching is ambivalent. Although English is one of the official languages in Hong Kong, there seems to be a social norm, or societal pressure against using English. If we look at the point of view of average Hong Kong people, everyone knows English proficiency is an asset which is crucial for both academic and career success. However, in the face of strong negative sentiments, people who initiate a conversation in English may be considered as a show-off. Respondents of different group have coincidently pointed out occasional code-switch will be accounted for as a person??™s move to show off.
Furthermore, many respondents from the four age groups agree that people will forget how to speak one language well if they do a lot of code-mixing. This means most of them view language competency would likely to fall into victim of code-mixing.
Part 2
Unlike the way how previous studies on code-mixing all focus on speech data, the corpus in this project is based on survey result, in the other words, only quantitative method is adopted. Though it is a convenient way to gather bunch of data within a short period of time, the findings are neither primary sources nor with in-depth information. Nevertheless, the data base is limited and biased which will obscure the fact that such insights may only be a small piece in the puzzle and will ultimately result in hasty generalizations. If I am going to conduct the same study again, I would prefer qualitative methodology such as observation on daily conversation, conducting interview or even collecting data from print material.
Another worth-to-note issue is linguists always tend to have a predilection for suggesting code-mixing is a conscious behavior intended for achieving certain sociolinguistics effects. But I have reservation on that. With regards to the Hong Kong context, it seems to me code-mixing as a natural, if not inevitable, phenomenon. It has permeated into every aspect of our lives in which individuals often can??™t help mixing bits and pieces of English into their Cantonese.

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