Forum discussion 1: October 6th – Establishing the object of study: code-switching vs borrowing

Time zone: Central European Summer Time (CEST)

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3.15-6.15 Forum discussion 1: Establishing the object of study: code-switching vs borrowing


Margaret Deuchar (University of Cambridge, UK)

Leah GosselinGabrielle Manning (University of Ottawa, Canada)

John Lipski (Penn State University, USA)

Marlieke Shaw (KU Leuven, Belgium)


Felix Ameka  (Leiden University, The Netherlands)

Kate Bellamy (Leiden University, The Netherlands)

Osmer Balam (College of Wooster, Ohio, USA)

Description Forum Discussion 1: Establishing the object of study: code-switching vs borrowing

When multilinguals speak they use words from the different languages in their repertoire. Borrowing describes a situation in which when speaking language X, a speaker produces a word from language Y which is an established element in language X. For example, English was originally the recipient language of the French word restaurant, but now this word is considered to belong to both French and English, having been borrowed from French into English. If an English speaker uses the word restaurant, few would argue that it is a switch into French, since many speakers of English are monolingual and unable to speak French. Code-switching applies to a situation where a multilingual speaker produces words from multiple languages within the same utterance, s in the example below, uttered by a Papiamento (in bold)-Dutch bilingual speaker:

un elftal mixto
det.INDEF eleven mixed
‘a mixed eleven [football team]’ (Parafita Couto & Gullberg, 2017:5)

While some linguists agree that “code-switching and borrowing are two distinct phenomena” (Poplack, 2017), others contend that “code-switching and borrowing fall on a continuum” (Myers-Scotton, 1993:176). Yet others argue that there is no distinction between the two processes (López, 2018). The reason for disagreements on the relationship between the practices is that researchers have approached the question in a fragmentary way, using different types of data, different theoretical assumptions, and different communities of speakers. For each of these positions, there are many factors that play a role in how the position is justified. It is also worth noting that linguists, anthropologists, psycholinguists and sociolinguists use different units of analysis. For example, psycholinguists focus mostly on words in experimental studies while linguists tend to focus on entire clauses, that is, the way the words from the two languages interact within the clause.

During this forum, panellists will present their position on and discuss the following questions:

  1. What is your position about the relationship between code-switching and borrowing?
  2. In your data, how do you identify the language composition of multilingual discourse? In other words, how do you annotate multilingual data?
  3. What issues do you encounter in the annotation process, if any?
  4. What advice would you give a beginning researcher of multilingual discourse? i.e. what is the way forward for the field to advance?