Posts Tagged ‘code’


Kun Mustain

State Polytechnic of Malang


The aim of this article is to provide an overview over the phenomenon of code-switching and code-mixing. The history  of code change has undergone various periods that have shown the phenomenon of code switching and code-mixing. In the  research of code change it is clear that code-switching and code-mixing can be investigated from different perspectives. One can see that there is a unique phenomenon of how language is used.  The Code-mixing and code-switching can deliberately occur both in informal and formal situation. These phenomena are connected to the varying motivations and purposes of  code-mixing and switching. The codes to be mixed and switched may be not only  languages but also styles, or even dialects. The most important thing, in conducting  code-mixing and switching, speakers must select the code related to the social  contexts and social dimensions.


Key-words: code, witching, mixing, dialect, style, register


In talking about bilingual or multilingual society, one will never set aside of phenomena called code-switching and code-mixing. In conducting code-mixing or switching,  a speaker has to consider the social context and dimensions, the varieties of  language, including registers and styles, linguistics’ constraints, and so on. In this case, speakers must select codes to be used in any specific context. In general, one may agree to Wardhaugh’s opinion that “… when you open your mouth, you must choose a particular language, dialect, style, register, or variety – that is, a particular code” (1998: 86). In addition, the code-choice depends on the social- context, social dimension, and the purposes.

There are many things to be considered in  explaining code-mixing, particularly. The factors are complex, the purposes are also varying. People, in the meantime, keep improving their abilities to master more than one language either to get much information or merely social purposes.



The ‘neutral’ term code can be used, Wardhaugh (1998: 86) explains, to refer to any kind of system that two or more people employ for communication. He, therefore, refers codes to language, dialect, style, register, or variety. People always deal with choosing an appropriate code when they speak. According to Holmes, it involves different dialects of a language, or quite different languages (1992: 6). However, choosing code is not done at random, at any which, any when or anyhow a speaker likes. Holmes (ibid: 2) says that ones choose words carefully according to who they are talking to. Moreover, she says it includes how well we know the person and whether they are socially superior. Nonetheless, people are not quite conscious in choosing one code or more in a situation and another. It is also a matter of solidarity dimensions as Myers-Scotton (1983b and, Scotton, 1983) stated,


“Speakers choose, not always consciously by any means, how they say what they want to say. They are generally aware of the power dimensions in the situations they find themselves in and they also know who they want to be identified with, the solidarity dimension. They have some idea too of how they want to appear to others and how they want others to be have toward them…”

(in Wardhaugh, 1998: 109 -110 )

One thing to be considered is the code choice undoubtedly includes linguistic variation as well. Holmes (1992: 6) describes that vocabulary or word choice is one area of linguistic variation. More precisely she says, linguistic variation occurs at other levels of linguistic analysis too: sounds, word-structure (or morphology), and grammar (or syntax) as well as vocabulary. Within each of these linguistic levels there is always variation which offers the speaker a choice  of ways of expression. Holmes, further, relates it to the social contexts in which the variation provides speakers with different linguistic styles for use in different social contexts (ibid). Linguistically speaking, in choosing code one must also consider its appropriateness in his utterance and purpose towards the interaction.

Choosing codes may be based on some factors. Holmes (1992:44) says one of them as, “the technical topics are firmly associated with a particular code and the topic it self can trigger a switch to the appropriate code. “She assumes that people may select a particular code because it makes them easier to discuss a particular topic, regardless of where they are speaking (ibid:29). However, Wardhaugh says that one’s language choices are part of the social identity he claims for himself (1998: 95). Certain codes, therefore, are deemed more appropriate for certain messages than other codes. It means, code and message are inseparable. Consequently, when a choice between codes exists, one must exercise that choice with great care since it can affect what happens to the message one wishes to communicate (Wardhaugh,ii: 112).


Relating to the codes, the appropriate registers and styles of speaking also have to be considered. The term register is widely used to deal with ‘varieties according to use’, in contrast with dialects, defined as ‘varieties according to user’ (Halliday,  Mclntosh & Strevens, 1964 in Hudson, 1980: 48). More technically,Ferguson(1994: 20) in Wardhaugh (1998:48) describes registers as sets of language items associated with discrete occupational or social groups. For examples, he suggests that surgeons, airline pilots, bank managers, sales clerks, jazz fans, and pimps employ different registers. Associated with these all, Trudgill (1983: 100-1) explains that registers are characterized solely by vocabulary differences either by the use of particular words, or by the use of words in a particular sense. Therefore, registers will relate independently to styles, in which Trudgill says as terms to describe “formality”. He makes an example as “the register of football … could co-occur with a formal style (as in a report in a high status newspaper), or with an  informal style (as in a discussion in a bar). In short, by considering the registers and  styles, one can speak very formally or very informally, depending on the circumstances.



Considering the external factor of the varieties, ones will never get separated with the term dialect. People from different social and geographical back grounds use different kinds of language. Trudgill (1983: 14) gives the examples as there is an Englishman which, “…comes fromNorfolk, for example, he will probably use the kind of language spoken by people from that part of the country. If he is also a middle-class businessman, he will use the kind of language associated with men of this type.”

Kinds of language of this sort are often, he says, referred to as dialects, the first type in this case being a regional dialect and the second a social dialect. InIndonesia, some good examples to describe these two types of dialects are, Jakartanese and Javanese as regional dialects and Ngoko and Bahasa Gaul as social dialects. These dialects are used in some cases. In general, Trudgill (1983: 15) explains that there is often a mutual intelligibility when someone decides which language to be spoken. He says, if two speakers can not understand one another, then they are speaking different languages. Similarly if they can understand each other, we could say that they are speaking dialects of the same languages. Subsequently, it is defined that the term dialect refers to differences between kinds of language which are differences of vocabulary, and grammar as well as pronunciation (ibid). Overall, the reason of using varieties or codes, Holmes (1992:26) says as, “…a feeling of equality that people have with one another.”



There are two major divisions of styles, they are formal and non-formal. However, a Dutch linguist, Martin Joos divides them into five categories. They are frozen, formal, consultative, casual, and intimate. However, here, the writer will try to discuss the two major divisions of styles, the formal and informal. Trudgill (1983:107) says that style range from the formal to the informal. However, formality is not, in fact something which it is easy to define with any degree of precision, largely because it subsumes very many factors including familiarity, kinship-relationship, politeness, seriousness, and so on. Moreover formality may relate to the choice of grammatical and lexical variation as well. Korean, for example, may have one of the following suffixes attached to the verb forms depending on the relationship between the participants (in Trudgill, ibid: 105-6):


intimate : -na
Familiar : -e
Plain : -ta
Polite : -e yo
Deferential : -supnita
Authoritative : -so


The degree of style can also be characterized by vocabulary differences (Trudgill, 1983: 107). For example:

(1)     I require you to be punctual

         I want you to come on time

(2)    Father was some what fatigued after his lengthy journey

        Dad was pretty tired after his long trip

These styles more or less resemble the levels of Javanese, which are also signalled by vocabulary differences. Along with scale of formality style, there are also phonological changes. Overall, Trudgill (1983: 111) concludes that these styles can be characterized through differences in vocabulary, including address-forms and pronouns, and in grammar and pronunciation. Thus, in most if not all linguistic communities, differences in social context lead to the use of different styles.


Written Language Style  

One of the informal style features in written language is the use of emotions and signs. This style consists of regular vocabulary used in specific ways. It can also make use of the regular word formation devices to create new words. Usually, it is only understood by member of group who use it.

One example of written language style is the English acronym used in plain text chat coined by net speakers. In this case, the effect also refers to certain vocabularies that will rapidly change as well as the use of them. Therefore, this vocabulary is not used in spoken language and some of them are only understood by the community who use them. Also, one will find some mixing numbers and letter,  for example: “h3 13Ft” substitutes the 3 with an E,the caps are ignored, and one will  have “he left”. A few notes on how styles in chatting or in mobile phone messaging are created will be presented in the following lines:

(1)    People tend to extend letters and capitalize them in chatting via text to  convey  emotion, so HEYYYYYYYY BILLLLLLLL, simply means someone is  expressing a lot of emotion in saying hello to Bill.

(2)    Vowels get left out a lot, for example: that’s wrd. In this case, it refers to  weird.

(3)    One will see the letter “z” every where. Usually it replaces “s” or “es” (the  plural of something) i.e.: many billz means many bills. Also “z” gets tossed around a  lot, as in hugzzzz, thankz, or kkz for OK, and soon.

(4)    Some phrases are formed from their initials or very rarely, from letters in  the middle of the words, i.e. laugh out loud becomes LOL, O my God becomes OMG,  and so on. These are some common web acronyms that ones can find in chat room.

But it is also stated to be the acronyms in text messages on a mobile phone (Bookbug,  1998-2000,


AAMOF As a matter of fact
AAR All About Romance
AB Automatic buy
AFAIK As far as I know
AKA Also known as
ARC Advance reading copy
ASAP Assoon as possible
B&N Barnes and Noble
BB Bulletin Board
BBL Be back later
BEG Big evil grin
BF Boy friend
BG Big grin
BIL Brothet-in-law
BRB Be right back



Language is a social phenomenon. Therefore, Trudgill (1983: 32) says, “a study of language to tally without reference to its social context inevitably leads to the omission of some of the more complex and interesting aspects of language and to the loss of opportunities for further theoretical progress. “In other words, the approach to sociolinguistics should include everything from considering “who speaks (or writes) what language (or what language variety) to whom and when and to what end” (Fishman, 1972 in Wardaugh, 1998: 16). It means that the same speaker may use different varieties in different situations, for different purposes, or different people, and indifferent functions.

Related closely to this context, Holmes (1992: 12) also proposes social dimensions, consisting of:

1)   A social distance scale concerned with participant relationships,

2)   A status scale concerned with participant relationships,

3)   A formality scale relating to the setting or type of interaction and the last,

4)   Two functional scales relating to the purpose or topic of interaction.

She explains the social distance scale which emphasizes that how well one knows someone will affect this linguistic choice (Holmes, 1992: 13). It, therefore, triggers a speaker to choose a common language to express solidarity. Holmes emphasizes that switches motivated by identity and relationship between participants often express a move along the solidarity/ social distance dimension (ibid: 42). The more intimate participants are, the higher solidarity will be expressed, and vice versa. A status scale is associated to this first dimension, which concerns with the relationships among participants. This scale also points to the relevance of relative status in some linguistic choice. It can be shown by an example provided by Holmes below:

The choice of sir…for instance, signaled that the school principle was the higher status and entitled to a respect term. Similarly the use of Ms by her secretary and Mrs by the caretaker reflected the highest status of Margaret Walker-Billington, since she called both of these people by their first names. (ibid)

The examples imply that a status scale can be inferred by the use of address forms, whether it is respectful or intimate. This status scale can be identified also by the educational and occupational back ground. By providing a simple chart, Holmes (1992: 13)tries to say that the more superior a person is, the higher status he is to be, And vice versa. Holmes therefore says, a switch may also reflect a change in the other dimensions, such as the status between people or the formality of their interaction ibid:42).

Formality scale is useful in assessing the influence of the social setting or type of interaction on language choice. Holmes further explains that the language used will be influenced by the formality of the setting. For a friendly chat, people use colloquial

language. Interestingly, Holmes concludes, “…often degrees of formality are largely determined by solidarity and status relationships” (ibid: 13-4). It is certainly true, since “more formal relationships involve status differences too”(ibid:42). Of course it will be different in a friendly relationship which involves minimal social distance such as neighbour or friend.

The last is the functional scales, they are referential and affective. Language certainly serves many functions, but those two are identified as particularly basic and persistent. Topic, therefore, relates to the function dimension. Of course, in a serious topic, like monetarism for example, the interaction will be quite referential. In general, Holmes says, the more referentially oriented an interaction is, the less it tends to express the feelings of the speaker. By contrast, interactions which are more concerned with expressing feelings often have little in the way of new information to communicate (ibid: 14). Therefore, these factors are also influenced by the code choice to be mixed in a sentence.




 Most sociolinguists state that code-mixing is a kind of code-switching. Poplack (1980) in Romaine (1989: 122-3) observes three kinds of switching as  follows: tag-switching, inter-sentential and intra-sentential-switching. Tag switching is found when a speaker inserts a tag in one language e.g. English: maybe, I think into an utterance which is otherwise entirely in another language, e.g. Indonesian: may be dia ada di rumah. Meanwhile, inter-sentential-switching involves a switch at a clause or sentence boundary, where each clause or sentence is in one language or another. In other words, a bilingual or multilingual who demonstrates inter-sentential-switching must be more competent in mastering the codes than the one who conducts the tag- switching. The last type is intra-sentential-switching, which occurs within the clause or sentence boundary. This type is what one calls as mixing. It associates with Wardhaugh in identifying the code-mixing as “a switch of codes  within a simple utterance without any associated topic change… (and) this is called intra-sentential code-switching, or code-mixing.”(1998: 108).


In further, Wardhaugh (1998) then, describes that code-mixing occurs when conversations use both languages together to the extent that they change from one language to the other in the course of a single utterance, (p. 103). Thus, intra-sentential switching is called as code-mixing where it involves the insertion of single word or a phrase within a sentence. In addition, Fasold (1984) in Lee states, “if some one uses or inserts one word or phrase from another language, he has conducted code-mixing (in Afendras, 1980: 186). The description bring us to an understanding about code-mixing, in which it can be called a switching of codes by inserting one word or phrase words within a single sentence.

Inter-sentential-switching is somehow a language phenomenon which is considered as appositive ability; while intra-sentential switching which will further be called code-mixing, tends to be the opposite. Trudgill (1983: 75) describes code-switching as “…switching from one language variety to another when the situation demands (something most non-standard-English-speaking children are quite often quite good at any way). In line with Trudgill, Holmes states, code-mixing suggests the speaker is mixing up codes indiscriminately or perhaps because of the incompetence, where as the switches are very well-motivated in relation to the symbolic or social meanings of the two codes (1992: 50). Basically, conducting code-switching is encouraged and considered as a good ability, but code-mixing is the opposite. Code-mixing, therefore, is commonly used in an informal situation, but it is possible that a person conducts it in a formal situation.


Possible Purposes Triggering Code-Mixing and Switching

There are several reasons for code mixing. The main purpses can be seen in the following paragraphs.


Expressing solidarity and intimacy

This is a reason to reduce differences to the addressees. Wardhaugh says, code-mixing/switching can allow a speaker to do many things: assert power, declare solidarity; maintain certain neutrality when both codes are used; express identity and so on.”(ibid: 110)  It maybe done by using a close-distant address-form, for instance in a regional dialect. Example: the use of mas (Javanese) and bang  (Jakartanese) or call the first name rather than pak, tuan and ibu to show close solidarity.Hudson agrees as he says, an easy example of this is the English use of personal names,

The range form is available for the use in referring to John Brown when he is not the addressee, and much the same rules govern the choice of form. Thus, if the speaker sees him as a close subordinate, he will refer to him as John, whereas he will refer to him as Mr. Brown if he sees him as a distant superior. (1980:pp. 127-8)

Of course, it is a good way to get closer with the addressee to whom the speaker can also sign his ethnicity. Holmes says, a speaker may similarly switch to another language as a signal of group membership and shared ethnicity with an addressee (1992:41). Further, she says, “even speakers who are not very proficient in a second language may use brief phrases and words for this purpose”(ibid).

This purpose can also be done by sharing the same idea with the addressee. For example by using the Jakartanese particle, “gitu” or repeating the common language used by the previous speaker. It is part of asking an agreement and getting intimate with the addressee in a conversation. In this case Brown and Levinson (1978:17) in Brown and Yule (1983:4) point out the importance of social relationships of establishing common ground and agreeing on points of view, and they illustrate the lengths to which, speakers in different cultures will go to maintain an appearance of agreement, and they remark ‘agreement may also be stressed by repeating part or all of what the preceding speaker has said’.


Asserting Status, Pride and Power

This purpose is done by mixing another code which is considered more prestigious. It is to make superiority expression which will increase the speaker’s status and power. In this case, confidence and pride may also trigger the mixing/ switching of codes as Nababan says, “another reason is also because the person wants to show his status or to show his being educated” (1986: 32). In accordance, Wardhaugh states, “the ability to mix codes…is now often a source of pride…” (1998: 109). In addition, Holmes (1992:48) adds the word “confidence” referring to this purpose. This purpose usually triggers a speaker to switch/mix codes which are more prestigious, in which he can not obtain when using his previous code. The mixing word usually is not related specifically to the topic and there is always a word to substitute it in the first language. Example: the use of English instead of Bahasa: ‘convert’ replaces ubah, ‘timing’ replaces waktu, to be more confident and prestigious.


 Lexical Needs

This purpose occurs since there is no proper word or expression in the Language being used. Holmes (1992: 50) states people may also borrow words from another language to express a concept or describe an object for which there is no obvious word available in the language they are using. Borrowing of this kind generally involves single words –mainly nouns-and is motivated by lexical need. In addition, this mix occurs since the term will have no exact meaning if it is translated to another language. Example: Spot box, The Fed, etc.

Nababan says that English is used commonly in international social-politic and scientific communication also in trade (1986:4). Richards-Schmidt then relates this  as”…English has more appropriate lexical items for something they (the speakers) want to express in a particular situation and they incorporate these into the grammatical structure of other language.”(2002:80)



This reason occurs since there is a lack of vocabulary knowledge in the language being used. Holmes (1992: 50) states clearly that code-mixing suggests a speaker to mix up codes indiscriminately or perhaps because of the incompetence. It means, when a speaker does not know how to say a word in a language, he will mix another language in his utterance. Holmes further says that this switch is triggered by lack of vocabulary {ibid).There is an example of Chinese students flatting together in English speaking countries which shows this purpose. In speaking with each other, they use Cantonese, but in discussing their studies they switch to English. Holmes (ibid: 44) describes this is partly because they have learned the vocabulary of their study in English, so they do not always know the words for certain terms in Cantonese. The incompetence in mixing a code, further, is identified by the occurrence of pause or filler (erm…, apa namanya…, etcetera) which is also preceded by no well-organized structure. Example: A: “Saya rasa itu meng… erm… create sebuah masalah baru ya.


Expressing Self-Emotion

This purpose occurs when a code-mixing is conducted to express a speaker’s self-emotion, such as sadness, happiness. Yet, sometimes, a speaker can even switch or mix another code to show his anger and disapproval. A language switch in the opposite direction, from the low to the high variety, is often used to express disapproval so a person may switch language because they are angry (Holmes, 1992: 47). But a speaker usually uses regional dialects to express sadness and happiness.


Making Jokes

The purpose occurs when a code-mixing is conducted to set a humorous  effect. This purpose also indicates the formality of a conversation. An example in  Paraguay shows that Guarani, the low variety is considered more appropriate for joking and humorous anecdotes (Holmes, 1992:46).In any means, the more often the  occurrence of making jokes, the less formal the conversation.


Being More Informative

This purpose occurs when a code-mixing is conducted since the speaker is  message-oriented. For instance, it happens because his occupation and education use  the codes often. Holmes(1992:29) says that people may select a particular variety or  code because it makes it easier to discuss a particular topic, regardless of where they  are speaking. It can also be done by quoting an important recitation. In this case, “the  speaker wishes to be accurate-the exact words are important” (ibid: 45). Yet, here, the purpose is more neutral, no status-oriented motif, for instance. Example: a speaker who is a pilot may mix some English terms while telling about an aerial matter.

These reasons may only be slightly different one to the other. In addition, ometimes, one code mixed may show more than one purpose but there will be only one which is more dominant. Furthermore, such purposes need not to be at all conscious, for apparently many speakers are not aware that they have used one particular variety of a language rather than another or sometimes even that they have switched languages either between or within utterances (Wardhaugh, 1998: 102-3). In other words, the tendencies of the speaker mix codes are important to the choice. Also, by switching or mixing two or more codes, a speaker can convey affective meaning as well as information (Holmes, 1992: 50). Moreover, to classify the purpose of code-mixing properly, one has to look carefully to the discourse fragments.



This is a dialog in “Duduk Perkara”, December 6, 2004. The topic is Indonesian Air flight. The speakers invited are Oetarjo Diran, the professor of Aeronautical Department of ITB; Dudi Sudibyo, the director of Dirgantara Angkasa Magazine, and Chappy Hakim; the General of TNI AU (Air force Defense). Here, one may see that these speakers are the experts of air flight, and they are needed to discuss the Indonesian Air flight related to the Lion Air accident.

The presenter:      …Betulkah bandara domestik atau internasional di Indonesia runway-nya kurang panjang?

Chappy Hakim:    … Seorang penerbang tidak akan membawa pesawatnya menuju suatu runway yang tidak cukup untuk dia landing

Oetarjo Diran:     … anda bisa melihat dari kepan-jangan landasan, what air kah can land there, kalau perlu restrictively.

Dudi Sudibyo:      …tetapi pada umumnya kalau runway-nya tidak mencukupi ya  kita larang.

From the examples above, it can be seen that all those utterances draw to a certain topic, which is about air flight, mixed with English words and phrases. The words and phrases are run way, landing, what air, can land there, and restrictively. In this case its insertion of English words and phrase is a sociolinguistic phenomenon that is called code-mixing. Some English words inserted by the speakers, run way and landing are somehow their preference to explain air flight terms. Even one knows that  Indonesian words can replace those words as landasan and mendarat, but the experts are commonly used those words in their occupational field term (as related to the topic). While, the other phrases such as what air, can land there, and restrictively are merely a matter of the speaker’s preference. He chooses those words as he is speaking to some experts who have ability in English. Yet, here he does not complete his whole English sentence as he is aware that people (the participants) from various educational  background see and may not understand him. Indeed, he actually can use Indonesian words pesawat tipe apakah yang dapat mendarat di sana, and dibatasi. In this case, the contexts of doing code-mixing in those utterances are participant and topic.

From the examples above, one can see that there is a unique phenomenon of how language is used. It will also include the use of vocabulary of certain language in the conversation taking place among the group members. In this case, English as an international language which has been acknowledged since years ago is commonly used. Nababan says that English is used commonly in international social-politic and scientific communication also in trade. (1986:4) Mean while, the main factors of how language is used are participants, situation, topic, and function of interaction. In other to, what he is talking about, where the conversation is taking place, and also, what is the purpose of the conversation.



One can see that there is a unique phenomenon of how language is used.  Code-mixing and code-switching can deliberately occur both in informal and formal situation. These phenomena are connected to the varying motivations and purposes of  code-mixing and switching. The codes to be mixed and switched may be not only  languages but also styles, or even dialects. The most important thing, in conducting  code-mixing and switching, speakers must select the code related to the social  contexts and social dimensions.


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