book notice: Talk in Two Languages

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Sep 23 12:19:20 UTC 2008

Talk in Two Languages

Announced at
AUTHOR: Gafaranga, Joseph
TITLE: Talk in Two Languages
PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan
YEAR: 2007

María Carmen Parafita-Couto, ESRC Centre for Research on Bilingualism in Theory
& Practice at Bangor University (Wales, UK) & Eva Rodríguez-González,
of Spanish and Portuguese, Miami University (OH, USA)


This book is intended to contribute to study of the wide-spread phenomenon of
language alternation and, more precisely, bilingual interaction. It is mainly
addressed to a scholarly community with an interest in bilingualism, contact
linguistics and conversational analysis. The book is made up of nine chapters,
including the introduction (chapter 1) and conclusion (chapter 9). The goal of
the work is to provide an overview of the main approaches (grammatical and
socio-functional) which account for the orderliness of language alternation. A
vast array of case studies is also offered in the book to show
examples of order
in talk in two languages (data have been primarily taken from the author's own
corpus of Kinyarwanda-French bilingual conversations).

The introduction presents the author's aims and justifies the use of
ethnomethodology as a sociological discipline to account for order in social
action contexts. This introductory chapter briefly discusses the focus of each
of the following chapters as they relate to the issue of order and language
alternation (from more theoretical approaches to language alternation to case
studies that illustrate specific findings that support the issue of order). The
Introduction also offers the reader the core foundation of language alternation
principles as they operate in social action. A brief discussion is presented
concerning the Conversational Analysis (CA) approach and its main scope of
depicting order for talk-in-interaction. The author tries to accommodate
competing approaches to language variation, such as CA and the Markedness Model
of Codeswitching, by emphasizing the shared principle of order in talk in two
languages; which lies behind all these approaches.

In chapter 2, ''Some Quasi-Theories of Order in Talk in Two Languages'', the
author addresses the negative perception and attitudes that bilingualism seems
to be have. Thus, the use of two languages within a single conversation is
considered a disadvantage/problem or, as the author writes, a ''disorderly
phenomenon''. In this regard, socio-linguistic labels such as Franglais,
Kinyafrançais and Spanglish emerge to convey those views and attitudes.
Gafaranga makes the reader aware of the controversy, and different views by lay
people on one hand and linguists on the other hand ('en résumé'
practices as the
author coins this kind of approach), to cover the complexity of the bilingual
linguistic phenomena. He identifies 'pseudo-scientific' terms such as borrowing
and interference, and provides the reader with contrastive views among
when referring to language alternation. The chapter identifies ''potential''
dichotomies, namely the contrast between borrowing and code-switching,
code-mixing and code-switching, and insertional and alternational language
mixing. Gafaranga briefly discusses each view. He claims that those binary
distinctions are vague and difficult to explain precisely. He also
persuades the
reader to follow well-grounded grammatical theories of language alternation,
such as the Original Constraints Model (Poplack, 1980; henceforth OCM) and the
Matrix Language Frame (Myers-Scotton, 1993a; henceforth MLF).

In chapter 3, ''Grammatical Order in Talk in Two Languages'', the
author examines
grammatical perspectives on ''talk in two languages'' as they are considered
depictions of order, that is, the principles behind Poplack's OCM grammatical
theory (surface-based) and Myers-Scotton's MLF model of code switching
(lexically based and organized by abstract principles). On the one hand, the
alternational model (OCM) is based on an equivalence constraint by means of
which the two languages overlap within each other. Even though the
author refers
to the OCM as an alternational model of ''talk in two languages'' following
previous literature, he claims that the model embodies insertional features. On
the other hand, the insertional model of ''language alternation''
(MLF) postulates
that one of the languages involved is dominant (the Matrix Language), and
provides the syntactic frame for the ''dominated'' language (the Embedded
Language). Together with the Matrix Language Principle, the Asymmetry Principle
and the Uniform Structure Principle provide a complete account of the
orderliness of ''language alternation''. In this chapter, the author
also supports
the idea that ''talk in two languages'' may in fact be neither clearly
alternational nor insertional.

As an attempt to put theory into practice, chapter 4, ''Using the Models: Class
Agreement in Kinyarwanda-French Language Alternation'', presents a
case study to
investigate the feasibility of MLF parameters as applied to data gathered from
Kinyarwanda-French language alternation (the languages in interaction
chosen for
the case study are Kinyarwanda and French). As language alternation
involves the
issue of order due to the grammatical differences between the two languages
involved, class agreement is one aspect that exhibits different traits in both
languages. Examples of class agreement in Kinyarwanda-French alternation are
illustrated in the chapter. The data supports the existence of a
Matrix Language
(Kinyarwanda), since class agreement is attested in the bilingual
Kinyarwanda-French utterances. The Structural Uniformity Principle is preserved
through existence of a dominant language (Kinyarwanda). However, the nature of
the class agreement shown in Kinyarwanda-French language alternation differs
substantially from the class agreement features attested in Kinyarwanda. Thus,
the existence of a Matrix Language in Kinyarwanda-French language alternation
confirms the MLF framework but adds another dimension to the specific
grammatical properties of the Matrix Language, in a language
alternation context
(as compared to the properties found in a given natural language).

The focus changes from grammatical to social in chapter 5, ''Identity Related
Accounts'', where Gafaranga examines language alternation phenomena from an
identity-related point of view. He explores two different identity-related
accounts: the Interactional Sociolinguistics perspective (Blom & Gumperz, 1972;
Gumperz, 1982) and the Markedness Model (Myers-Scotton, 1983 and
further works).
Gafaranga concludes that both models share the ''one-situation-one-language
principle''. He also acknowledges the existence of a language separateness
(diglossia) model as a research framework. Gafaranga is critical of all three
frameworks arguing that language alternation runs counter to the
''one-situation-one-language principle'', and instead argues for a change into
''one-situation-one-variety''. In addition, he contends that these
models cannot
account for two types of language alternation: momentary departures
into another
language and momentary language alternation.

Since under identity-related perspectives language alternation seems to be an
issue of order (as it runs counter to the one-situation one-language
in chapter 6, ''Interactional Order in Talk in Two Languages: Organisational
Explanation'', there is a shift to the organizational level. Gafaranga argues
that there must exist an organizational principle counter to which language
alternation can be seen as running, and examines two existing principles: the
''Preference for Same Language Talk'' (Auer, 1984, 1998) and the
''Preference for
Same Medium Talk'' (Gafaranga, 1998, 2000, 2001). Both approaches have
in common
the same theoretical background (ethnomethodology and conversational analysis),
and they both account for the orderliness of language alternation by reference
to the general organizational principle of ''preference''. The
difference comes in
terms of ''preference for same language talk'' (Auer) vs. ''preference for same
medium talk'' (Gafaranga). The author claims that the difference
between the two
approaches is not merely a terminological one (i.e. ''language'' vs.
The unit of analysis turns out to be a big difference between the two models,
being the turn and the turn constructional unit for Auer and the overall order
for Gafaranga. Another difference is that both models differ with respect to
their assumptions regarding language: for Auer people speak a language
while for
Gafaranga they do not do so (bilinguals use a medium, not a language, which is
made up of different mixed varieties).

To reinforce what he concludes in chapter 6, the author devotes chapter 7,
''Using the Models: Direct Speech Reporting in Talk in Two
Languages'', to a case
study on the specific use of order in the interactional site of direct speech
reporting. Gafaranga focuses on whether speakers reproduced (or not) the medium
of ''original'' talk, and why they did so. In order to answer these
questions, the
author makes use of the ''Demonstration Theory'' (Clark & Gerrig,
1990), according
to which any significant aspect of talk organization can be reported. In his
case study, Gafaranga finds that when language choice itself is the depictive
element, the original medium is reproduced; while when the medium of the
original talk is incidental, the current medium is used. This leads him to
conclude that the medium is a social norm and is not followed only when there
are reasons for this (''content reporting''). Gafaranga also claims
that whenever
the medium of the original talk serves as a supporting element, original medium
may or may not be kept.

In chapter 8, ''Applying Language Alternation Studies'', Gafaranga gives us his
view of why it is necessary and important to study the orderliness of talk in
two languages. He explains that most applied studies of language alternation
have been conducted in classroom contexts, and that this is an important
resource. However, the core of the chapter is based on his own fieldwork in the
Rwandan community in Belgium, which he uses to demonstrate that studies of
language alternation can be used to explain language shift and maintenance
outside of the classroom setting.

In chapter 9, ''Summary and Conclusion'', Gafaranga recapitulates the
main points
of his work, and makes some suggestions for further research on language

The book is certainly an invaluable companion, not only for experts in
bilingualism and contact linguistics but also discourse analysis, theoretical
linguists and sociologists because of its wealth of source data. The book is
intended for a broad linguistics audience. However, it requires the
reader to be
familiar with previous research on language alternation studies, code-switching
and different terms, arguments and approaches to the study of language
alternation. A praiseworthy feature of the book is the effort that it makes to
bring together socio-functional perspectives to code-switching.
Gafaranga's work
is an attempt to test grammatical and ethnomethodological approaches
on language
alternation as characterizations of order. More specifically, the
author focuses
on testing Myers-Scotton's MLF and confirms the plausibility of identifying
Kinyarwanda as the Matrix Language in Kinyarwanda-French code-switching
situations. The use of extensive data on Kinyarwanda-French language
to test the MLF confirms the book's relentless methodology, and its
applicability and usefulness in explaining and testing the Matrix Language
Framework. The book in this respect reflects a coherent assessment of
descriptive accuracy of a theory (MLF) since it provides both an identification
and explanation of code-switching phenomena (Kinyarwanda-French
alternation) and
it confronts the predictions of MLF with the data of actual bilingual speech
(Poplack, 2004).

Gafaranga's aims in this book are quite ambitious. He tries to cover too much
ground, touching on almost every conceivable topic related to language
alternation, but he is not always successful. The consequence of
trying to cover
so much is that sometimes his treatment is a bit superficial and fragmentary.
The mission of integrating ethnomethodological with grammatical approaches is
perhaps one of the book's strengths. However, there is a lot that we still do
not know about how these two approaches can be successfully combined. Gafaranga
takes the different approaches one at a time, systematically, but without
integrating them to explain code-switching phenomena. Thus, it seems to us that
the call for research that focuses on the intersection between the two
approaches has yet to be heard in order to establish a relationship between the
different factors that shape ''talk in two languages'' in a more
consistent manner.

When investigating language alternation from a grammatical
perspective, one must
also be aware of one's own theoretical orientation and any influence
that it may
have. Gafaranga's explanation is based on the MLF (Myers Scotton, 1993), but he
fails to acknowledge the existence of other prominent grammatical
models in code
switching research such as the Minimalist Program (Macswan, 1999, 2000, 2005a,
2005b) or Chan's (2003) production model. Upon completion of the book, it
remains somehow unclear where Gafaranga stands when purporting that bilinguals
do not use a language but a 'medium': he supports the existence of a Matrix
Language (Kinyarwanda) to account for Kinyarwanda-French language alternation,
but at the same time he defends the need of ''an attitude of
indifference'' when
approaching code switching data (Gafaranga, 2000).

It would be surprising if, in a book of this scope, there would be
features that
one could not question. Fortunately, it does offer some intriguing cues.
Gafaranga has made a significant contribution by attempting to articulate the
outline of an interdisciplinary study of language alternation. There
is a wealth
of material and ideas in Gafaranga's book that we hope will promote further
research that weaves together interdisciplinary approaches to ''talk in two

Auer, P. (1984). _Bilingual Conversation_. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Auer, P. (1998). Introduction: bilingual conversation revisited. In P. Auer
(Ed.), _Code Switching in Conversation: Language, Interaction and
Identity_ (pp.
1-24). London: Routledge.

Blom, J.P. and Gumperz, J. (1972). Social meaning in linguistic structure:
Codeswitching in Norway. In J. Gumperz and D. Hymes (eds) _Directions in
Sociolinguistics_. New York: Holt, Rinehard and Winston, 407-434.

Chan, B.H. (2003). _Aspects of the Syntax, the Pragmatics and the Production of
code-switching: Cantonese and English_. New York: Peter Lang.

Clark, H. and Gerrig, R. (1990). Quotations as demonstrations. _Language_, 66,

Gafaranga, J. (1998). _Elements of Order in Bilingual Talk: Knyarwanda-French
Language Alternation_. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Lancaster University.

Gafaranga, J. (2000). Linguistic identities in talk-in-interaction: Order in
bilingual conversation. _Journal of Pragmatics_, 33, 1901-1925.

Gafaranga, J. (2001). Medium repair vs. other-language repair: Telling the
medium of a bilingual conversation. _The International Journal of
4, 327-350.

Gumperz, J. (1982). _Discourse Strategies_. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

MacSwan, J. (1999). _A minimalist approach to intrasentential code switching_.
New York: Garland.

MacSwan, J. (2000). The architecture of the bilingual language
faculty: evidence
from intrasentential code switching. _Bilingualism: Language & Cognition_, 3
(1), 37-54.

MacSwan, J. (2005a). Codeswitching and generative grammar: A critique
of the MLF
model and some remarks on ''modified minimalism''. _Bilingualism: Language &
Cognition_, 8 (1), 1-22.

MacSwan, J. (2005b). Remarks on Jake, Myers-Scotton and Gross's response: There
is no ''Matrix Language''. _Bilingualism: Language and Cognition_, 8
(3), 277-284.

Myers-Scotton, C. (1983) .The negotiation of identity in conversation: A theory
of markedness and code choice. _International Journal of the Sociology of
Language_, 44, 115-36.

Myers-Scotton, C. (1993a). _Duelling Languages: Grammatical Structure in
Codeswitching_. Oxford: Clarendon.

Myers-Scotton, C. (1993b). _Social Motivations for Code-Switching:
Evidence from
Africa_. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Poplack, S. (1980). Sometimes I'll start a conversation in spanish y termino en
español: toward a typology of code switching. _Linguistics_ 18, S. 581-616.

Poplack, S. (2004). Code-switching. Soziolinguistik. In U. Ammon, N.
Dittmar, K.
Mattheier & P. Trudgill (Eds.). _An international handbook of the science of
language_. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

M. Carmen Parafita Couto is a project researcher at the ESRC Centre
for Research
on Bilingualism in Theory and Practice at Bangor University (Wales). Her
research interests include syntax and its interfaces, bilingualism, and contact

Eva Rodríguez González is an assistant professor of Spanish Linguistics in the
Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Miami University (Ohio, USA). Her main
research interests are second language acquisition, psycholinguistics,
bilingualism and contact linguistics.

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list