Code Mixing in Sociolinguistics
What is Code Mixing?
One of the most commonly observed forms of language change is code mixing in conversational speech. Code mixing in sociolinguistics can be defined as simply mixing of two or more codes. It is more common in speech. There can be mixing of two or more varieties of the same language or of different languages altogether. Out of the codes that are mixed, the one whose structure or syntax is followed is generally called the matrix language and the other languages can contribute at the least some vocabulary items. However, this might not always be true.
Code mixing is different from code switching. However, often these two terms are used interchangeably in the study of sociolinguistics.
An example of code mixing in English would be:
“Hola! Where were you today?”
In the above sentence, the word Hola does not belong to English vocabulary. It is taken from Spanish. A lot of young people use such code mixed sentences, in conversational speech or even on social media.
Hindi-English Code Mixing
In this blog, we will only focus on code mixing in the languages Hindi and English. Here the matrix language will be Hindi. And English will be the language that mixes with it. This can occur the other way round as well.
Let us now look at a code mixing example:
“tu apne saath college bag leja raha hai?”
Most of the Hindi language speakers can easily identify the above sentence as a Hindi sentence. This is transliterated in the Roman script for convenience of readers. However, there are two words in it, i.e. college and bag, which are clearly English words. The Hindi equivalent of these words would be mahavidyalaya and basta respectively.
Hence, we can say that in the above example, there is code mixing of Hindi with English. Also, in this code mixing example, the matrix language is Hindi and the embedded language is English.
Code mixing is, in fact, extremely common in real, actual conversations of multilingual language users, mostly but not only in informal contexts. With the advent of social media in the past decade or so, the interaction and communication of language users from all across the globe has increased phenomenally. Social media is now a potent source of linguistic exchange, change and variation.
Motivations for Code-Mixing
1. Language Politics
Over two hundred years of English colonialism along with its so-called post-colonial and neo-colonial consequences have placed English as the language of class, refinement and prestige in India. As per the 8th schedule of the constitution of India, English does not yet have an official language status. However, the English Language Amendment Bill declares English as an “associate language” until every state reaches a consensus of one sole official Indian language. Besides, the science and technology sector uses English as the medium for publishing latest developments in research.
English is also the medium of instruction in schools and colleges in India. It is more often the mode of communication and, hence, a prerequisite for getting jobs, in top firms and MNCs. Inevitably, English speaking is considered as a marker of being educated and rich in India. Besides this, English is spoken worldwide and is one of the most prevalent languages on social media (Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.). Hence, as far as sociolinguistic factors are considered, code mixing of English in Hindi is frequently and predictably done by Hindi speakers.
2. Other Motivations for Code-Mixing
Apart from these social factors, politics and power associated with English, code mixing happens in other cases as well. For instance, when a Hindi speaker does not know Hindi vocabulary enough. This seems plausible as pure, standard Hindi is difficult to process even for native Hindi speakers.
Another case is when the lexical entry for a particular concept is missing altogether in Hindi. Certain words have to be directly taken from English as there are no easy, common Hindi translations for them.
Sometimes, non-native English speakers find it easier to express controversial, taboo and explicit content using English words than in their regional dialects. Other times, it is just a matter of habitual, regular use of an English word over a Hindi one.
English is the language of education, scientific research and technology almost all across the globe, a lingua franca in many places. Also, almost all mobile applications and operating systems use English as their default language and Roman alphabet for representing information in text. Hence, speakers from other speech communities constantly mix English with their native languages and use Roman alphabet to write and access Internet.
Code mixing of English with other languages is frequently done on social media by multilingual language users who know English and one or more languages. Often the entire content actually comes from a language other than English, but is written using the English Alphabet.
Code Mixing and Acceptability
Code mixing is far more common in informal, colloquial language use than in strictly formal contexts like, for example, university textbooks, journals, newspapers, etc. That being said, code mixing is even entering these domains, albeit, a bit slowly and in quite a restricted manner. In colloquial contexts, it is violently entering the system.
Code mixing is more acceptable and frequent than a strict pure language use. In fact, it is uncommon and odd to speak pure Hindi in an informal, colloquial context. Often pure Hindi is used in speech to bring about humorous effect. Hence, pure, unmixed Hindi speech is highly restricted to certain contexts.
Code mixing is done unintentionally by everyone these days. And code mixing has intimately entered the linguistic repertoire of the new generation of the school and college going kids. The creative ways in which children use code mixing and switching these days has indeed become an identity marker.