A Pragmatic Analysis of a Teacher’s Code

| January 7, 2014

December 2009
Volume 4 Issue 2

| December 2009 home | PDF version |

A Pragmatics Analysis of a Teacher’s Code-switching
in a Bilingual Classroom

Yunisrina Qismullah Yusuf

Universitas Syiah Kuala

Yunisrina Qismullah Yusuf is a Lecturer at the English Department in the Faculty of Teacher Training and Education, Universitas Syiah Kuala, Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where she teaches Psycholinguistics, Writing, Reading and English Pronunciation. She is currently a PhD (Linguistics) student in the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with a research on a comparative study of vowels from two varieties of Acehnese, a study in Banda Aceh, Indonesia and Kampung Aceh, Kedah, Malaysia. She has an MA in Linguistics also from the University of Malaya. Her research interests are phonology, syntax, second language acquisition, sociolinguistics, language and culture.


This study analyses the phenomenon of code-switching by a teacher in a bilingual classroom and explains it in terms of pragmatic function. The theoretical framework of this study is based upon Rayfield (1970), Gumperz (1982) and Jacobson & Osman (1987). Their works examine the social meaning of code-switching, and classify types of code-switching into conversational functions. Their categories have been redefined to match with the data being described in this study. Other categories have also been added to account for other instances of code-switching especially in the Malaysian context.

The data gathered from a university lecture contains examples of code-switching from Malay to English. The classroom under investigation consisted of 114 students of varied ethnicities. There were 70 Malay students, 43 Chinese students and 1 Indian student. The students were all Malaysian citizens, and all spoke more than one language. The data shows that code-switching is used in a classroom setting to perform a number of different pragmatic speech functions. Most frequently, code-switching took the form of loanwords inserted into speech for emphasis, economy of speech, and as substitute when no equivalent existed in the L1. Less frequently, code-switching was triggered by the need to attain emphasis, and to gain attention and efficiency from the students, fulfilled by the pragmatic functions of proper name, hesitation, quotation, and transfer of subconscious markers. Other instances of code-switching illustrate the functions of addressee specification, interjections, message qualification, number, parenthetic remark, reiteration and personalization vs. objectivization. The findings also indicate that the lecturer most often code-switched for the purpose of accuracy, especially to explain general concepts used in the field of industrial ergonomics, and for facility of expression. Technical concepts were better discussed in English, the language in which was learned.

Key Words: code-switching, bilingual classroom, conversational functions, pragmatics, Malay-English, bilingualism.

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Category: 2009