Examples of code-switching

Spanish and English — Researcher Ana Celia Zentella offers this example from her work with Puerto Rican Spanish-English bilingual speakers in New York City. In this example, Marta and her younger sister, Lolita, speak Spanish and English with Zentella outside of their apartment building.

    Lolita: Oh, I could stay with Ana?
    Marta: — but you could ask papi and mami to see if you could come down.
    Lolita: OK.
    Marta: Ana, if I leave her here would you send her upstairs when you leave?
    Zentella: I’ll tell you exactly when I have to leave, at ten o’clock. Y son las nueve y cuarto. ("And it’s nine fifteen.")
    Marta: Lolita, te voy a dejar con Ana. ("I’m going to leave you with Ana.") Thank you, Ana.

Zentella explains that the children of the predominantly Puerto Rican neighbourhood speak both English and Spanish: "Within the children’s network, English predominated, but code-switching from English to Spanish occurred once every three minutes, on average."

Hopi and Tewa — Researcher Paul Kroskrity offers the following example of code-switching by of three elder Arizona Tewa men, who are trilingual in Tewa, Hopi, and English. They are discussing the selection of a site for a new high school in the eastern Hopi Reservation:

    Speaker A [in Hopi]: Tututqaykit qanaanawakna. ("Schools were not wanted.")
    Speaker B [in Tewa]: Wédít’ókánk’egena’adi imbí akhonidi. ("They didn’t want a school on their land.")
    Speaker C [in Tewa]: Naembí eeyae nąeląemo díbít’ó’ámmí kąayį’į wédimu::di. ("It’s better if our children go to school right here, rather than far away.")

In their two-hour conversation, the three men primarily spoke Tewa; however, when Speaker A addresses the Hopi Reservation as a whole, he code-switches to Hopi. His speaking Hopi when talking of Hopi-related matters is a conversational norm in the Arizona Tewa speech community. Kroskrity reports that these Arizona Tewa men, who culturally identify themselves as Hopi and Tewa, use the different languages to linguistically construct and maintain their discrete ethnic identities.