Structural Analysis of Persian-English Code-switching and Code-mixing: An Inquiry into Universal Linguistic Constraints

Authors: Hamzeh Moradi (Nanfang College, China) , Liang Gao (Beijing Information Science & Technology University, China)
Speakers: Hamzeh Moradi
Strand: Language Contact and Change
Session Type: General Session


“Many studies have been conducted to investigate the unified justification of syntactic mechanisms in code-switching (CS) and code-mixing (CM). While these studies can be considered to explain CS and CM between Persian and English, this paper discusses that each model or linguistic constraint is not complete enough to account for the current results of Persian-English CS/CM among Iranian bilingual speakers. Language switching has been investigated from different perspectives, such as structural linguistics, sociolinguistics, and psycholinguistics. This research mainly focuses on the structural analysis of CS and CM between Persian and English as two typologically different languages with distinct syntactic and morphosyntactic structures. This paper is part of an extensive fieldwork study that analyzes CS and CM among Persian-English bilingual students in India. The study focuses on specific university contexts in India. In this Asian country, English is one of the official languages used as a second language; it is the medium of instruction in higher education institutions and a language for social interactions. Therefore, this peculiar linguistic context affects participants’ exposure to English and the use of English in their daily lives and, as a result, facilitates the occurrence of CS/CM. The data were collected from the spontaneously produced language in participants’ daily interactions at three central universities in India. The data reflect Persian-English language contact and language switching in real-life contexts. The qualitative research methods were used to examine CS/CM between Persian and English based on universal syntactic constraints, including Poplack’s Free Morpheme Constraint (FMC), the Linear Equivalence Constraint (LEC), the Size of Constituent Constraint (Poplack, 1980), and Woolford’s Phrase Structure Congruence Model (Woolford, 1983). We examined the applicability of these universal syntactic constraints to Persian-English CS/CM data. As an example:

(1) æz motivation-et xoʃ-æm-umæd

from motivation-2Sg like-1Sg-came

“I liked your motivation.”

(2) topic-æm ro change-kærd-æm

topic-1Sg OBJ change-did-1Sg

“I changed my topic.”

The subject “I” was omitted in the above utterances because Persian is a pro-drop language. As seen in these examples, switching occurred between free morphemes of English (motivation; topic; change) and Persian bound morphemes (-et; -æm; -kærd-æm), which are inflectional suffixes in the Persian language. Based on such examples, we can argue that the FMC, which claims that switching cannot occur between a free morpheme and a bound morpheme, cannot account for switching between Persian and English. Our data revealed many counterexamples of Persian-English CS/CM that violate predictions made by the above-mentioned universal linguistic constraints.”

Keywords: Code-mixing (CM), code-switching (CS),  English, language contact, Persian