Use Of Code-Switching (CS) In Hong Kong – Literature Review

Literature Review

Humans are social beings by nature. Every so often, they find the need to interact by way of holding conversations with one another. Nonetheless, the process of interaction between two or more people is not always straightforward. Myriad, issues continually arise during regular interactions such as language barrier or incoherent accent. Still, one of the rapidly emerging trends in modern day conversational interaction is the practice of code switching. Simply put, code switching refers to the use of a number of dialects in an alternating fashion during conversation. It is not unique to a particular type of people. Everyone probably does it from time to time; sometimes even without knowing. Neither is it exclusive to a particular region in the world. This paper takes particular interest in the Use Of Code-Switching (CS) In Hong Kong. Specifically, it reviews many works of literature that cover various dimensions of the code switching in the region.

One piece of research title: A diachronic-functional approach to explaining grammatical patterns in Code-switching: Post-modification in Cantonese–English noun phrases from the International Journal of Bilingualism, 2015 offers deep analysis of the development of the various morphological practices in Hong Kong. Cantonese is the main ethnic language in mainland China, originally spoken in the region of Guangzhou (Chan, 2015). This article explores the practice of borrowing from either language to form different words that contribute immensely to the code-switching scenario in Hong Kong. Frequently, people find them in situations whereby they must say something but have no idea how to express themselves fluently to their audience (Chan, 2015). During such instances, they involuntarily create specific words that notably sport elements of both languages. Chan, the author, deftly describes this type of code switching which involves a process he terms as ‘reinsertion’; a process, which includes inserting a post-modifier along with an English noun head in the middle of a Cantonese sentence. Ideally, the sentence resumes its Cantonese tone soon after the modifier. His overall verdict on the issue, however, is that there is no single acceptable formula for the practice of code switching. Participants always keep inventing their funny ways of fusing languages to suit them.

Another similar research entitled Code scaffolding: A Pedagogic Code-switching Technique for Bilingual Content Instruction was conducted by Fennema-Bloom under the Journal of Education. The continued dominance of code switching in a speech in Hong Kong receives, even more, backing from the author in this literature. She is inclined towards vouching for the acceptance of code switching in teaching. Moving on, she notes with particular interest that code switching would come in handy for bilingual tutors who are looking to make lessons more comprehensible to the students. The research conducted in this literature sought to verify the impact of code switching in formal education. The study yielded positive results thanks to the incorporation of code-switching practices in the teaching methodologies. In the literature, the author repeatedly likens code switching to the scaffolding techniques commonly used by monolingual tutors. She argues that CS has much greater pedagogic values than most people do realize. Often, tutors are at a loss on what to do when their students fail to respond appropriately to their studies due to the difficult language used in the classroom (Fennema-Bloom, 2010). This literature shows that code switching, or in this case, scaffolding goes a long way to ensure better understanding in students. It creates a link between the languages that the students are already proficient in with the one that they intend to acquire knowledge of presently.

One article that sheds more light on the code switching practice in Hong Kong is English Medium Secondary Schools: Privileged Orphans in the SAR. Authored by Sean O’Halloran of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, this literature addresses the dilemma bedeviling English Medium Schools in Hong Kong on whether to embrace bilingualism or stick to their previous diglossic ideologies. It does not help that English is an official language in the region, a large part of the population is still not proficient in it. School going student are not an exception either, as they all show signs of slow mastery of the language. In light of this issue, the department had thus, proposed the use of mixed codes in the educational curriculum (O’Halloran, 2001). The article appears to embrace the code switching narrative, citing various reasons why it may work to the advantage of the entire Hong Kong community. In as much as students are the primary target population addressed by the article, the ideologies presented no doubt apply to the public as well (O’Halloran, 2001). If anything, the students represent a vital fraction of the population. Furthermore, it gives the international students a good chance of integrating into the society with great ease.

Still in the realm of education, the article, The Politics of Bilingualism: A Reproduction Analysis of the Policy of Mother Tongue Education in Hong Kong After 1997analyzes the changes in the various languages in the region on the educational system. It is quite clear from the onset that the education system of Hong Kong his responsible for the development or demise of language in the region. Just like the above-reviewed literature, it attempts to explain the process of transition providing reasons for or against the assimilation of particular etymological trends. Evidently, there has been a lengthy exchange concerning the relevance of English and local Chinese dialects in the region. Pak-Sang and Byram (2003) provides an enlightening breakdown of this issue starting from the colonial days to the present. Back then, the educational system consisted of the English medium schools (government schools) and the local Chinese schools (Pak-Sang &Byram, 2003). In these institutions, learning was conducted through English and vernacular respectively. Over time, the use of the local Chinese languages began to dwindle thanks to the emergence of other foreign languages in Hong Kong. Nonetheless, the government reportedly moved in to salvage the situation by restructuring into a bilingual system (Pak-Sang &Byram, 2003). As illustrated by the article, a bilingual system provides a conducive environment for the practicing of code switching. Ideally, code switching thrives in a situation whereby the speakers feel they are fluent in both languages.

Intriguing yet, is the literature by Peter Mark, and James Reagan titled Current Attitudes Towards Language And Code Mixing InHong Kong. Largely, this research exhibits different elements from the above-reviewed pieces of literature. While the others cover analyses conducted with the primary intention of establishing the dominance of code switching in Hong Kong, instead it studies the behaviors of the people Hong Kong most of which even attempt to disapprove the fact that CS is a popular trend in the region. According to authors, the people of Hong Kong are naturally conservative and do not fancy abandoning their ways for foreign ways. They attribute this to the continued use of the Cantonese language among the large part of the native Hong Kong population, which explains the reason they prefer using their mother tongue to English. Interestingly, they posit that the most common trend in Hong Kong is in fact, code mixing and not code switching. Going forward, they offer a descriptive analysis of the two concepts in the hope of distinguishing between the two. One noticeable difference is that code-mixing involves improvising of particular words from one language to another (Mark & Regan, 2005). On the other hand, code switching means the insertion of foreign words in mid-sentence (intrasentential)(Mark & Regan, 2005). Eventually, it satisfactorily establishes that the population’s attitudes towards a language can affect its development.

Another informative article on this subject is Cantonese-English code-switching research in Hong Kong: a Y2K review put together by Li. In this literature, Li embarks on a journey of reviewing other studies previously conducted on code-switching in Hong Kong. Among other things, he performs an in-depth analysis of various theories in the realm of code switching (Luke’s model). Besides, he also discusses factors that inspire the culture or practice of code switching. The disapproving attitude of the Hong Kong population towards the use of English in their daily social life is a reality (Li, 2000). According to Li, this behavior necessitates the need for code-switching in particular situations that call for the use of English. English is a national language in the region. In addition to the ever-growing dominance of the language on the international platform, it is also used in the country for official purposes (Li, 2000). Despite their constant refusal to embrace the use of English, Hong Kong’s history quickly defines it as a bilingual society and as such it is only advisable for them to embrace it or the go the code switching way.

Separating language from culture is impossible. Naturally, language and culture occur together, and any attempt to separate the two always proves futile. Another article entitled Toward a social psychology of bilingualism and biculturalism authored by Sylvia Xiaohua Chen under the Asian Journal of Social Psychology puts this ideology into context. It does not address the subject of code switching directly, but instead, it explores certain aspects of nature that contribute to the development of particular social behavior, which includes code-switching and its counterpart code mixing. One of the main factors that define culture is language (Chen, 2015). It is the unique component that helps distinguish one culture from the other. As highlighted earlier, human beings are friendly creatures. They encounter people from other cultures as they interact with one another leading to the assimilation of individual aspects of either culture (Chen, 2015). Language is by far the most notorious culprit in this respect. Repeatedly, people have proved to be quite susceptible to the influences from foreign languages. Often, the result is either complete assimilation of the new language or the automatic incorporation of aspects of the external language into the native language. This explanation no doubt sheds more light on the dilemma surrounding the origin of these linguistic practices in communities such as Hong Kong. According to the author, this is a common trend in most bilingual and bicultural societies.

Moving on, another piece of literature, A Corpus-based Analysis of Mixed Code in Hong Kong Speech penned by John Lee provides a fresh perspective on the subject matter. John Lee embarks on an elaborate study to establish the behavioral habits that create the different speech exhibited by people in Hong Kong. The author achieves this by reviewing hundreds of speeches delivered during television programs in the area. Also, he probes the real motivation behind such behaviors in the people. The results showed that code switching was indeed a common practice although not as prominent as in other societies (Lee, 2012). This study went a long way to confirm the tense situation between the natives and the language, English. It gets even more confusing when one stops to reconsider the statics that in the real sense do not add up no matter how much one tries to evaluate (Lee, 2012). The author notes that about 43% of the Hong Kong population can speak English fluently. Nevertheless, the community’s conservative nature does not allow for the complete dominance of English. The most it can do for them is serving as an embedded language; an opinion shared in other literature.

Another excellent book on code switching is Language in Hong Kong at century’s end by Martha Pennington under the Hong Kong University Press. Indeed, it portrays high similarity in both content and context with Chan’s research as discussed above. In comparison, they both pore over the development of code switching and code mixing concerning the two dominant languages in Hong Kong; English and the native Cantonese dialect. Similarly, both corroborate the fact that English is dominant despite not being a favorite with the local population. Nevertheless, Martha delves deeper into the subject imparting invaluable information regarding the composition of words in code mixing and sentence structure in codeswitching. In verification, she states that code switching involves the inclusion of English pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and nouns in an initially Cantonese sentence. It should, however, be noted that the sentence structure rarely takes the different form. Naturally, it is an English word surrounded by many Cantonese words, which then creates a complete sentence.

So far, quite some authors have divulged their take on the subject of code switching and code mixing thanks to their incessant need to conduct researches on the same. In that respect to give credit where it is due. Irvine et al. (2008) put together a valuable piece in their study titled Bilinguals in Style: Linguistic Practices and Ideologies of Cantonese-English Code mixers in Hong Kong. In comparison, they deliver a simple yet comprehensive analysis of the subject much to the reader’s satisfaction (Irvine et al., 2008). The literature begins with a simple definition of code switching, goes further to state, and explains various types of code switching namely tag switching, intra-sentential, as well as inter-sentential. Most importantly, the literature identifies intra- sentential as the most dominant type of code switching around the region of Hong Kong (Irvine et al., 2008). Also, it attributes the composition of code switching and code mixing phrases/conversation to the dominance of the local Cantonese language. On the other hand, it gives the less dominant language – English – as the embedded language.

The importance of language in the community is incontestable. Among its many uses, language advances information in young minds in the society. Over the centuries, people have had to learn to become responsible individuals with the potential of contributing to the upholding of virtue in the community (Cacoullos& Travis, 2015). Nevertheless, this ideology is put at risk when there is tampering with the elements of the only medium used in instilling discipline in the society. In truth, the education system is always on the receiving end during the emergence of scenarios such as code switching (Cacoullos& Travis, 2015). While conventional learning methods are dependent on the correct use of language as is required by institutional curriculums, code switching can complicate learning. The article by Cacoullos and Travis Gauging convergence on the ground: Code-switching in the community attests to this fact. This literature provides a detailed summary of the impacts of codeswitching in the community.

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