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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


WINTER, Petria et al. Code-switching patterns in natural spoken language in a group of young Afrikaans-speaking children: An exploratory study. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2023, vol.63, n.1, pp.45-64. ISSN 2224-7912.

Code-switching is a complex skill that refers to the use of two or more languages by a speaker during one utterance or conversation (Gort, 2012:46; Van Dulm, 2007:1; Myers-Scotton, 2009:239). In South Africa, with its 11 official languages, children are exposed to more than one language, and subsequently, code-switching is ubiquitous (Van Dulm, 2007). Code-switching was recently identified in the spontaneous language samples of young Afrikaans-speaking children (Liebenberg, 2021:74). Similar findings were described in Nel (2012:193), who recommended that future research should investigate code-switching occurrences in spontaneous speech. The current study, therefore, aimed to fill this gap by describing the nature and extent of code-switching in the spontaneous speech of neurotypical Afrikaans-speaking children. The common phenomenon of code-switching is further relevant to speech-language therapists. Recent literature states that this phenomenon is often observed during children's speech and language assessments and it is noted in the speech and language samples of both children with and without language disorders, similar to the code-switching seen in spontaneous speech (Kapantzoglou, 2021:1605). This study confirmed that code-switching was previously described as a function of language and that a relationship exists between code-switching and language functioning. Since speech-language therapists assess language and language functioning, the influences of code-switching are important to understand and consider as it may influence decision making in therapeutic contexts. The current paper focuses on children who are raised in Afrikaans and whose language of learning and teaching is also Afrikaans, but who use English code-switching in their utterances. Due to the paucity of research regarding this phenomenon, a descriptive, quantitative, cross-sectional research design was employed to analyse and describe in depth the spontaneous speech of 30 young Afrikaans-speaking children between the ages 3;6 (year; months) and 9;6. An equivalent number of boys and girls were included as participants and they had to match the following criteria (1) have Afrikaans as their first language, (2) be typically developing), (3) come from a middle-class socio-economic status (therefore, the family should fall within the tax-paying bracket), (4) live in the broader Tshwane-area (to ensure no dialect differences amongst participants), and (5) have normal hearing status. Code-switching occurred in the spontaneous language of the monolingual Afrikaans-speaking children who were observed in the current study. The data also showed that these children primarily inserted English nouns in the matrix language utterances (in this case, Afrikaans) by means of intrasentential code-switching. Ninety percent of the code-switching in the dataset were examples of intrasentential code-switching. Across all the age groups, the percentage of English words that were used (in terms of the number of different words) was less than 10% overall. No significant tendencies were noted between the five different age cohorts and genders. A relationship was, however, noted between higher language scores in terms of morphology and lower numbers of code-switching. Code-switching is a common phenomenon in the spontaneous, spoken language of young Afrikaans-speaking children. Although Afrikaans was the participants 'home language, as well as their language of learning and teaching, they often used English code-switching in utterances. The Afrikaans-speaking children's use of code-switching may indicate second language acquisition of English or that they have already acquired English as a second language. The current study makes an important contribution to the existing literature as these results may prompt that more specific boundaries for the definitions of monolingual and multilingual individuals should be described to classify these participants and the code-switching phenomenon. Further research regarding spontaneous second language acquisition in a multilingual context is also required. The study identified several gaps in the code-switching literature for young Afrikaans-speaking children to be addressed in future research.

Palabras clave : Afrikaans; monolingual; English; code-switching; matrix language; spoken language; mean length of utterance; intrasentential; spontaneous language; South Africa.

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