Code Switching in Arabic – English and Telugu – English – A Minimalist Account

| March 28, 2017

Title: Code Switching in Arabic – English and Telugu – English – A Minimalist Account

Keywords: antisymmetry, code switching, grammatical aspects, Greenberg’s universal 20, minimalist theory, syntactic constraints.

Supervisor: Prof. Hemalatha Nagarajan
Department of Linguistics and Contemporary English
The English and Foreign Languages University
Hyderabad, Telangana, India



This thesis addresses grammatical aspects of code switching in two language pairs- Telugu-English and Arabic-English.  The two language pairs are selected precisely for the reason that they are diametrically opposite to each other in terms of word order.  Telugu is an SOV language, whereas (Spoken) Arabic is SVO just like English.  Many researchers have looked at a single language pair and arrived at different conclusions.  Some of them (Pfaff, Joshi, et al) said that there was a need for a specific lexical apparatus to describe code switched sentences while some of them (MacSwan and Chan) advocated Null Theory.  In other words, they said that there was no need for a separate grammar but the same lexical apparatus that were used to describe monolingual sentences can be used to account for code switched sentences.   Though this thesis, at heart is an addition to the list of the Null Theory advocates, it does so in a different way. It looks at data from two language pairs which according to the limited knowledge of the researcher is first of its kind.

A lot of data was collected using two methods – grammatical judgment and naturalistic observation.  Though some researchers are against former method, many others are of the opinion that unless one knows what is wrong, how does one explain what is right?

The approach followed in this thesis to analyze the data is minimalist in the sense that only mechanisms that were absolutely essential to account for the data were used. Firstly, earlier literature that had been proposed specific lexical apparatus for code switched data is reviewed in the light of newly collected data and each one is disconfirmed.

Then the analysis proceeds to confirm the Null theory. Finally it is proved that though the languages differ in their basic word orders, there is switching possible at almost all boundaries and that the same lexical apparatus used to analyze monolingual data can be extended to account for code switched data.

Category: 2016 Thesis, Thesis