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Maria Alejandra Mareco

Conversational code switching in Guaraní-Spanish alternations

TITLE: Conversational code switching in Guaraní-Spanish alternations
YEAR: 2002
ACADEMIC INSTITUTION: Universidad Nacional del Litoral Santa Fe
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KEYWORDS: Code switching – social meaning – patterns – social exchanges – addressee – bilingual speakers


The purpose of this paper is to explore a communicative strategy used by Guaraní-Spanish bilingual speakers. This strategy is conversational code switching which is used by people from rural as well as urban areas in Formosa. Code switching is a language-processing phenomenon that creates communicative and social meaning in a given community. Gumperz defines code switching as ‘the juxtaposition within the same speech exchange of passages of speech belonging to two different grammatical systems or subsystems’ (Gumperz, 1982: 59). The present research is intended to contribute to the field of linguistics, curriculum design, and language teaching in contact areas since apparently there is little research into the pragmatic and sociolinguistic aspects of the interaction between Guaraní and Spanish bilingual speakers in Argentina and Paraguay. This paper poses a broad question at the onset of this study: Spanish-Guaraní speakers tend to use four different conversational code switching patterns in their oral alternations, these four categories being: quotation, addressee specification, reiteration and interjections. Later, spoken data were prioritized in terms of their importance and potential impact on the hypothesis outlined. The present research, of its nature, required a variety of investigative methods, each relevant to the research objectives proposed. These included not only traditional quantitative research methods, but, even more importantly, qualitative naturalistic research methods which are often more appropriate for social science and enquiry. In this line of work, multi-method research included ethnographic studies. Different groups of people were observed in real world settings. They consisted of fourteen proficient Spanish-Guaraní bilingual speakers from different social groups and ages. Afterwards, a group of informants was chosen in order to obtain a wide range of natural encounters. Informants were observed with special attention to their natural communication, particularly oral interactions. Furthermore, the relationship between interlocutors during code switching as based on a negotiation between them was considered of most relevance. Results were evaluated according to the interpretative method by testing the co-occurrence of the four conversational categories described above. The testing instruments identified that the four aspects of Spanish-Guaraní code switching introduced above were applied.