Code-Switching in the French Caribbean Media: Negotiation and Accommodation in a Linguistic 'Continuum'

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: School of Languages Linguistics and Film

Abstract

This PhD project will investigate how code choice (CC) and code-switching (CS) between French and French-lexicon Creole serve to frame and alter the relationship between Martinican speakers and their interlocutors/audiences, paying particular attention to interview-like situations broadcast on Martinican TV. French and Creole have been traditionally treated as an unequal pair of nevertheless distinct languages, yet their relationship appears much tougher to classify when we consider the lexical continuity between the two and the tendency of Caribbean speakers to blur the lines between them. In this context, the practice of CS, whereby speakers alternate between features of French and Creole within the same interaction, takes on particular importance. Studying when, where and how it is practised and what speakers think it accomplishes can help us better understand the relationship between French and Creole and the meanings that speakers attach to each.
Given its power to shape and reflect attitudes, the mass media offers an ideal gateway for examining the linguistic practices of a given society - and in this case one that is still understudied. Generally more conservative in their language and yet eager to appeal to the linguistic identities and expectations of their audiences, broadcasters can be expected to use CS both in rather conventional ways, giving an insight into language norms, and strategically, giving an insight into CS' potential to express stance-taking and linguistic accommodation. Of course, the partial artificiality of media interactions means these cannot be studied in isolation and will have to be set alongside CS/CC in other social contexts. Thus, this PhD will cast a light on how media language differs from, imitates and influences CS occurrences in more spontaneous settings.
This project also aims to contribute towards a better understanding of wider regional and non-regional sociolinguistic issues. The co-presence of French and Creole in the Caribbean media has been a bone of contention in recent years, as scholars like Jean Bernabé have claimed that presenters' CS could accelerate the ongoing process of decreolization (the assimilation of Creole to French), and, thus, the erosion of an important component of Creole identity. My project would likely shed light on how non-linguists perceive this process and its identity-related implications and, possibly, take a stance with regards to the controversial concept of decreolization itself in Martinique. Besides, this research will deal with a number of broader social scientific issues, ranging from the more 'philosophical' questions of language classification (how are different languages perceived in a linguistic continuum?) and speaker agency (how far can speakers make deliberate use of their linguistic repertoire?) to those of an essentially sociolinguistic nature, such as the effects of linguistic insecurity and the role of the mass media as an agent of top-down and bottom-up linguistic change.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2109905 Studentship ES/P000703/1 01/10/2018 30/06/2023 Chiara Ardoino