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Anna Kristina Hultgren

University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Code-switching in the internationalized academe: Are ‘indexicality’ and ‘authenticity’ always relevant?


Recent sociolinguistic theory posits that the social meaning (or ‘indexicality’) of a linguistic variant is indeterminate. In a deliberately rigid interpretation, this can be seen to imply that no linguistic variant is devoid of social meaning. The proposed talk aims to generate discussion about whether or not ‘indexicality’ and ‘authencity’ are always relevant, focusing on the (Danish/English) code-switching practices of scientists at the University of Copenhagen. Two examples from this context shall be contrasted. A discourse analysis of a newspaper debate about the increasing use of English in Danish academia suggests that the choice of code at the lexical level is clearly socially meaningful. More specifically, variants are understood as being intrinsically linked with notions of ethnolinguistic ‘authencity’, i.e. as belonging categorically to either the Danish or the English language. In stark contrast to this, interviews with the scientists themselves suggest that their choice between Danish and English lexical items may not be associated with any social meaning at all, and hence not with (ethnolinguistic) ‘authenticity’. Without denying that social meaning may still be inferred from a given variant by the analyst, to the language users themselves, the interpretation (at least as it is overtly expressed in interviews) seems to be much more one of communicative functionality than of social meaning. All in all, for purposes of theorization, such evidence suggests that ‘indexicality’ and ‘authenticity’ should be taken to be neither omnipresent nor axiomatic.

« September 2021 »
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