Socio-pragmatics of conversational codeswitching in Ghana
Keywords:Socio-pragmatics, conversation, codeswitching, Ghana, Akan, Ewe
AbstractThe purpose of this paper is to deepen insight into the socio-pragmatics of conversational codeswitching in Ghana. It presents detailed textual analyses of the codeswitching that Ewe-English and Akan-English bilinguals employ in various social contexts, including informal interactions at home, semi-formal discussions in study group meetings at school, and interactions on talk-radio. We find that codeswitching appears to be predominantly unmarked (i.e. that it appears to fulfil little or no pragmatic and discursive functions in interactions beyond indexing speakers’ solidarity). But upon closer look we realize that many codeswitching instances that could pass as unmarked are in fact illustrations of marked codeswitching, which bilinguals employ stylistically to convey specifiable social and discourse intentions.
The paper situates the discussion within an ongoing debate about the future of indigenous Ghanaian languages in intensive codeswitching contact with English. It specifically takes on the speculation that most of the local languages in this kind of contact will sooner rather than later transform into mixed codes. On the basis of the data analysed, the paper predicts instead that Ghanaians will manage to slow down any ongoing development of their languages into mixed codes if they continue to use marked codeswitching they way they do now. The prediction stems from the fact that bilinguals like them who use marked codeswitching alongside unmarked codeswitching normally have the mental capacity to keep their languages apart as codes with separate identities.
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