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Code Switching Malay Language and English Language

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INTRODUCTION Code switching is a common phenomenon in bilingual society. Crystal (1987) says that code switching occurs when a speaker who is a bilingual alternates his or her speech between two languages. People who code switching swapping their language to another language that they know while they are speaking or writing

Myers-Scotton (1993) defines code switching as the selection by bilinguals of forms from an embedded language (or languages) in utterances of a matrix language during the same conversation. People who code switch have a matrix language in their utterances. Usually, if the people have more knowledge on one code, the code will be the matrix language and other code will be embedded into the matrix language.

Matrix language does not necessary be speakers own mother tongue. It can be any language that speakers master. For example, Puan Halimahton is a migrant from Malaysia to United Kingdom. Even though her first mother tongue is Malay language but as she worked at United Kingdom for many years, her competency on English language has increased. Therefore when she speaks, the matrix language would be English language and sometimes she embeds Malay word.

The knowledge of utilizing two or more languages of bilingual society gives an advantage to them to swap the language intra-sententially or inter-sententially on different purposes. Bilingual people ought posses the knowledge of both languages morpheme and

syntax. This enables them to utilize the knowledge to achieve different purposes such as to emphasize and to get conformation.

Code switching may be done consciously or unconsciously depending on context and function. While chatting with friends, speakers may unconsciously code switching. When an English teacher of standard 1 asks her students whether they understand the lesson or not, she might be using inter-sentential code switching. Do you understand me? Faham tak? She consciously code switching so that the students would understand what she is saying.

In our research, we focus on code-switching of Malay and English language. We have narrowed down our research focus on these two languages only. Either Malay or English language will become the matrix language and the other language will be embedded into the matrix language. We predict that most of our participants which are Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) students will code switch more as they are using English in learning session and reading reference materials mostly in English. Our participants are enrolling courses like Development Management, Hospitality and Tourism, Accountancy, Economy and Teaching English for Young Learners (TEYL).

We are curious to investigate who code-switch more between male and female and which word classes do code-switch occur more often. We also like to know in what context and function do the participant code-switch. From these questions, we have developed three research questions which are:

a) Is there a difference in the frequency in which men and women code-switch during a conversation? b) In what context ad function do they code-switch? c) Which word classes do code switch occur most often?

Our data analysis and findings are based on these questions.


As a start, it is essential to define the notion of bilingualism and concentrate on the primary feature of bilingual speech production, in which the research is concerned. Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics (1999, p.36) terms bilingualism as the use of at least two languages either by an individual or by a group of speakers, such as the inhabitants of a particular region or a nation. Bilingual speakers have more linguistic resources at their disposal than do monolingual speakers. Therefore, bilinguals often employ strategies for maximising the potential expressiveness of their linguistic inventory.

When bilingual speakers communicate, they frequently integrate linguistic material from both of their languages within the same discourse segment (Bonvillain, 2003). This linguistic process is widely known as code switching. From the sociolinguists point of view, code switching (CS) is studied to understand why people who are competent in two languages alternate languages in a particular conversation or situation. Therefore, the concept of CS, as defined by Gumperz, 1973(cited in Dewaele et. al, 2003), refers to the alternate use of two or more languages in the same utterance or conversation. Another definition of code switching is the act of changing from one language to another takes many forms associated with a certain mood of the speaker, circumstances of speech production or the interlocutors being present (Richards and Platt, 1999).

Early research in this area has identified the types of CS and the factors affecting it. More specifically, CS varies according to the situation (situational code switching) and within a conversation (metaphorical code switching). Under the metaphorical category, CS differs according to discourse function. For example, to include or exclude someone from a conversation, to convey intimacy, or to emphasize a message. Gumperz (1982) seminal work lists six functions of code-switching: quotation (a quote is code-switched), addressee specification (a code-switched message aims at a particular/different addressee), interjection (an interjection is code-switched), repetition (a code-switched message repeats what has just been said), message qualification (i.e. a code-switched message elaborates what has been said), personification or objectification (a code-switched message implies a personal or objective tone). (cited in Journal of Conversational code switching and Relevance Theory)

According to Nancy Bonvillain (2003), code switching has a variety of linguistic and interactional functions, such as emphasizing, marking discourse boundaries, expressing emotions or opinions, and signaling in-group/out-group membership that can have simple uses in expanding vocabulary. As a sentence produced by a bilingual may begin in one language and finish in another, phrases from both tongues often succeed in an apparently random order. The use of more accessible word may depend on speakers linguistic abilities in their two languages or momentary lapses of memory.


The data for the research were collected from UUM students. A total of 15 respondents comprise of students from different courses such as Hospitality and Tourism, Development Management, Accountancy, Economy and TEYL participated in the research.

In approaching the participant to get the data during informal situation, we initiate a conversation by greeting them and start talking about any matters. We do not utter any English word at first as this will influence the participant utterance. We secretly record the conversation by putting the recorder nearby us so that the record would be clear. Sometimes when people ask are we recording their conversation, we have to pretend that we are not recording and giving other excuses.

However in formal situation like meeting, discussion and meeting, we record the conversation from far as not to interrupt the flow of the discussion. Recording formal situation is easier than informal situation as we do not have to initiate the conversation. This is because when we try to converse, there is a tendency to speak English to encourage them to code-switch.

After that, we jot down the details of time, situation, styles, principal speaker and language in a language diary. Usually we fill in the language diary after we get back to our room as we do not usually carry around language diary with us.

After we have collected all the recordings, we transcribed the recordings using Sony Fesorge and Express Scribe. Later we printed the transcription and start analyzing the data. First we analyzed how much male and female code switch, we bracketed the code switch that appear and count them. Second, we figured out what is the function of code switching that appears in female and male transcription. Third we highlighted English word that falls under the word classes of adjectives, nouns, adverb, verb and pronoun and we counted the frequency.



We have collected eight samples of recorded conversation among UUM students. We divided the data into two general aspects which according to gender (male and female) and to two different contexts (formal and informal situation). These aspects are later analysed in order to obtain the frequency of both men and women code-switch during a conversation and to know in what context and function do they code-switched.

The data consists of four formal conversations and another half is in informal context. Within these contexts, we separated both formal and informal conversation into two different genders. i.e. two of formal and informal male speakers and same goes to the female speakers. All recordings took approximately 20 minutes of conversation. These divisions of data collection are made particularly to avoid gender biasness and imbalance of data.

Based on analysis of the data collections, we discovered that there is a big difference in the frequency of male and female speakers code-switching during the discourse. The results in Table 1 show that 77.5 percents of female speakers have a tendency to code-switch during the conversation. Since their matrix language is a Malay language, they switched to English mostly at the word level. It is probably because lacks of equivalent word in Malay language. The words such as empowerment, restrictive and privileged card can be good examples of this probable reason. However, only 22.5 percents of male speakers tend to switch the language. In contrast to female speakers, men

used more tag switching in both contexts; otherwise, they

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