Semantron 23 Summer 2023


reference to language learning in the classroom, whilst occasionally viewed negatively, is equally as vital, because code-switching to a native language can help learners convey their ideas despite lacking the complete vocabulary. Having the confidence to fill in gaps of knowledge using a native language is a crucial component of language learning. One of the areas of the study of code-switching which can be highly interesting to linguists is why bi- or multilingual people may choose to switch certain types of words more often than others mid- sentence, and how each language can represent the world view of a speaker. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity states that language predetermines what we see in the world around us, with use of language allowing us to class certain objects into groups and understand our surroundings, with different languages organizing our view of the world in different ways. According to this train of thought, with an amalgamation of languages used together, code-switchers enjoy a more varied world experience. This can be shown by a 2019 study in which researchers from the University of California Berkeley used facial mapping on bilingual parents during a dyadic emotion-inducing puzzle box task with their children, to see whether code-switching occurred more frequently during different facial emotions or not. 1 The researchers found that the parents code-switched more frequently after displaying negative emotions (frustration or anger), and code-switched less when displaying joy or enthusiasm. They also found that parents would use their first language (Chinese in these cases) more often during negative emotions. An explanation behind this reversion may be that, because lesser cognitive function is caused by negative emotion, compared to increased cognitive function in the relaxation of positive emotion, parents revert more often to their most comfortable language during these scenarios, as it comes more easily to them, whereas English would require a more arduous thought process. However, linguists also observed code-switching frequency to increase as well, as the parents’ decreased cognitive function demands that they use words or phrases that come immediately to mind. Frequency of code-switching is unique to interactions between each language: Chinese and English, for example, are grammatically very different, in comparison to French and Italian. Researchers noted that in closer grammatical proximity languages, code-switching would be observed at a heightened rate. Researchers also proposed that we observe more explicit verbalizations of praise, e.g., ‘ well done ’ or ‘ I love you ’ in English as a result of the western cultural frame promoting more common positive emotional phrases, suggesting an alternate explanation for why more positive language was used in English rather than Chinese. In recent years, there has been much debate between linguists as to whether code-switching is wholly a positive or negative practice. Does code-switching during teaching infants language cause confusion between the two languages, or is it actually a superior method for learning each language, with some studies suggesting bilingualism can increase cognitive function? Others have argued that constant code-switching, especially in reference to dialects, can have negative mental health implications, with a constant oppression of linguistic identity leading to senses of abandonment of culture and exhaustion. In a 2019 study published by the American Psychology Association, researchers aimed to understand how minority groups of youths understood and experienced the phenomenon of being

1 Williams, A., Srinivasan, M., Liu, C., Lee, P., & Zhou, Q. (2020). Why do bilinguals code-switch when emotional? Insights from immigrant parent – child interactions. Emotion, 20 (5), 830- 841.


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