• Bilingual speech behavior and the cultural perspective

 Angéline MARTEL

Dr JOCOBSON, vous avez mené des études interculturelles sur l'alternance codique. Pouvez-vous nous indiquez comment vous définissez ce dernier terme?

Rodolfo JOCOBSON

Bilingual communities are characterized by the fact that their member tend to use two different languages in their discourse to the extent that they choose to use one language for certain settings and a second language for others. Some such communities will even opt for combining the resources of the two languages within the same communicative act. This latter strategy that one usually refers to as codeswitching.

 Angéline MARTEL

Vos études portent sur deux contextes bilingues très différents : le premier dans un contexte mexico-americain à San Antonio au Texas et l'autre parmi les Malays de Kuala Lumpur en Malaysie. C'est pourquoi vous les dites " interculturels ". Quels sont, en résumé, vos résultats ?

Rodolfo JOCOBSON

Yes, in resume, recent recordings of conversations in the bilingual mode of the two target populations have revealed that some bilinguals exhibit an extraordinary ability to move back and forth between their two codes to the extent that it is not always possible to determine which of the two languages operates as a matrix code and which serves the purpose of embedding content morphemes or other-language islands.

As for the Mexican-American setting, this dual language balance seems to be the result of a corresponding balance between their two cultures, the mainstream Anglo-American and the ethnic heritage Hispanic cultures.

As for the Malaysian setting, it seems to be far less obvious that the use of the two languages actually involves the same high degree of biculturality, since English in Malaysia tends to be a tool of communication, inherited from colonial times and later nativized to suit the needs of an independent nation, and is not necessarily an expression of cultural, or even partial cultural identification with the value system of individuals who speak that language natively.

Therefore, it seems worthwhile to further examine the two cultural settings and try to explore how differently the mentioned balanced bilingual performance is generated, that is, whether it occurs because of the presence of a high degree of biculturality among its users or because of some other factors that have not yet been identified in the literature.

 

  • The San Antonio Project
    1. Preliminaries

Angéline MARTEL

Quel est l'historique de ce type d'études et quels instruments ont utilisés antérieurement?

Rodolfo JOCOBSON

An earlier study of Wallace Lambert (1969 [in collaboration with Carol Aellen]) entitled Ethnic identification and personality adjustments of Canadian adolescents of mixed English-French parentage (in A. Dil, ed., 1972) seemed to address, in regard to bicultural Canadians, some of the same issues that we wanted to study in regard to bicultural Mexican-Americans in the hope that such an instrument, if adapted to the different setting, would allow us to determine the degree of biculturality of the subjects whose conversations we had recorded.

Some minor adaptations or expansions became necessary as Lambert had not included in his questionnaire any reference to language use and the instrument had also to be adjusted specifically to the Mexican-American medium.

The analysis of the responses of thirteen subjects who had all allowed us to record their speech served as basis to determine the degree to which they were subscribing to mainstream and/or ethnic heritage values.

Therefore, I will first describe the Lambert instrument and indicate which specific changes/expansions had been made to it, to summarize the findings in regard to the bicultural ratio of the subjects and suggest, on the basis of these findings, how the more biculturally balanced individual also turns out to be bilingually balanced, using a bilingual mode that we wish to call language alternation in accordance with the term suggested by Abdelâli Bentahila and Eirlys Davies in their ground-breaking work on Moroccan Arabic-French codeswitching. (in R. JOCOBSON, ed. 1998).

    1. The original Lambert instrument

 Angéline MARTEL

Quel est alors le questionnaire utilisé par Wallace Lambert et son équipe? ET quelles adaptations avez-vous faites ?

Rodolfo JOCOBSON

Wallace Lambert's description of his study on Ethnic identification and personality adjustments had first appeared in the Canadian Journal of Behavioral Sciences (1.69- 86) and was later included in Anwar S. Dil's collection of Lambert's essays entitled Language, psychology and culture (1972, Stanford University Press:266-289).

It dealt specifically with the situation among Canadian adolescents of mixed English-French parentage. The purpose of the study, in Lambert's own words, was "to provide information by focusing on the adjustments made by adolescent children of English- French marriages in the Montreal setting, examining the degree and direction of the offspring's ethnic identifications as well as a selected set of their attitudes, values, and personality characteristics" (in A. Dil, ed.,:266).

One of the sections, Procedure, contains, not only the description of subjects and measuring instruments, but also the specific topics investigated in the project. The instrument constructed for such a purpose was designed to study the following :

(1) the identification of subjects on the basis of semantic differential (2 forms) and social distance;

(2) self-esteem and stability on the basis of self-ratings, psychological maturity profiles, sensitivity to others scale and a measure of anomie;

(3) perception of parents on the basis of statements about the degree to which parents satisfy their children's need for inclusion, control and affection;

(4) peer relationships on the basis of an assessment of the type of behavior wanted from others as well as expressed toward others with regard to inclusion, control and affection;

(5) attitudes on the basis of sets of feelings dealing with views on parents' origin, English vs. Canadians, England and France, anti-democratic leanings or ethnocentric attitudes;

(6) values on the basis of certain stereotypes with attention to qualities to pass on, merit of achievement, occupational aspirations, etc.

Some of these topics needed adjustment to fit a different target group (Mexican-American); hence, under topic (5), we would no longer focus on English vs. French Canadians but rather on Anglo- vs. Mexican-Americans, not on England and France but on the United States vs. Mexico, although anti-democratic leanings and ethnocentric attitudes still continued being of some interest. The changes under topic (1), in turn, obeyed the need of incorporating certain family values characteristic for the Mexican-American (close vs. extended family), values that distinguished him from the typical Anglo-American.

Furthermore, Lambert's description of his target population as young adolescent, that is, 14 to 17 year olds of mixed parentage, needed to be changed. The subjects of our study were undergraduate students whose age was more fluid as they would range somewhere between twenty and thirty years. Also, it made no sense to control the study for mixed parentage as some were of Mexican parentage, others of Mexican-American parentage and still others of Mexican--Mexican-American parentage. The number of Anglo-Mexican-American parentage was negligible.

There was also the time-of-migration factor that seemed to blur the distinction between Mexican and Mexican-American, so that some Mexicans might easily qualify as Mexican-Americans and some Mexican-Americans as basically Mexicans. The mixing in the target population I used was rather the broader relationship of Mexican/Mexican-American subjects within the overall setting of Anglo-America.

Furthermore, there is no reference at all in Lambert's instrument as to language use. We know little about how much English or French the subjects knew and whether or not they switched from English to French or vice-versa when talking informally with one another. For the Mexican-American population and, in particular, for the purpose of the present study, language use is crucial. Therefore, a special topic on language use needed to be added to the revised instrument.

    1. The objective of the expanded / adapted instrument
 Angéline MARTEL

Quel instrument avez-vous donc utilisé pour évaluer la " biculturalité " de vos sujet d'étude ?

Rodolfo JOCOBSON

The main reason for expanding and/or adapting Lambert's highly valid instrument into our own intrument entitled " Assesment of Biculturality (3)" is of course the


Imprimer  
  1. IDENTIFICATION I
    1. ME:
    2. MY CLOSEST FAMILY
    3. MY EXTENDED FAMILY
    4. THE TYPICAL MEXICAN AMERICAN
    5. THE TYPICAL ANGLO-AMERICAN
  2. IDENTIFICATION II (Social distance)
    1. What is your general impression of the Mexican-Americans you know as individuals?
    2. What is your general impression of the Anglo-Americans you know as individuals?
  3. LANGUAGE USE
    1. What is your main language of communication?
    2. When do you prefer speaking a language other than your usual language variety?
    3. Do you at times combine elements from two languages in your discourse?
      1. If yes, when?
      2. If yes, with whom?
  4. SELF-ESTEEM AND STABILITY
    1. ME (You have given this information already but you may make additional remarks):
    2. ME AS I WOULD LIKE TO BE:
    3. HOW OTHERS FEEL ABOUT WHAT I HAVE TO SAY:
    4. DESCRIBE:
      1. Feelings of (dis)satisfaction with society:
      2. Value of planning ahead:
      3. (Dis)belief in equality of opportunity
  5. PERCEPTION OF PERSONS IN CLOSE CONTACT
    1. Degree to which they satisfy needs for
      1. inclusion:
      2. control:
      3. affection:
  6. PEER RELATIONSHIPS
    1. Specify type of behavior wanted from others:
    2. Specify type of behavior expressed toward them:
    3. Describe interaction with peer-group:
    4. What is you preference for marrying/having married a member of a given ethnic group:
  7. ATTITUDES
    1. What is your view with regard to the origin of your parents?:
    2. What is the major goal of the Anglo-American/Mexican-American society?:
    3. What are your attitudes toward the United States and Mexico?:
    4. What are your attitudes toward mainstream/minority/foreigners?
  8. VALUES
    1. What qualities do feel your parents want to pass on to you?:
    2. What qualities would you want to pass on to your children?:
    3. What value do you place on achievement?:
    4. What are your occupational aspirations?:
  9. FINAL COMMENTS (Optional):
  10. Interview code:___________


particular target population that we wanted to study. We are no longer studying Anglo- or Franco-Canadians but we are dealing with a sector of the Mexican-American population. By the same token, we are not limiting our research agenda to ethnic identification as this issue is quite self-explanatory among Mexican-Americans who all consider themselves members of an ethnic minority of Hispanic heritage residing within the boundaries of the United States, country toward which they maintain complete loyalty even when retaining some cultural traits of the old country. Some personality adjustments are however noticeable, not as a result of mixed marriages --Mexican-Americans rarely engage in cross-ethnic liaisons -- but in the attempt to encounter a balance between their Hispanic heritage and the General American identity. In other words, the attainment of a variable degree of biculturality emerges as a function of their personality adjustment.

The cultural perspective to consider in the Mexican-American context concerns the consideration as to whether one is dealing here with a loose association between the two cultures where Culture A plays a dominant role and Culture B functions in a rather insignificant fashion or whether, in turn, there is a balanced relationship between cultures A and B, such that the person feels equally at home in either setting,

If an individual is bicultural in the latter sense , such a person may - by logical extension - also engage in a balanced use of his/her two languages, in this case in the use of Spanish, his/her heritage language and that of English, the language of the American mainstream. It is this correlation between a balanced cultural behavior and a balanced linguistic performance that I wished to address in this study. In other words, if one could identify truly bicultural individuals, they might seek to engage, in their intra-ethnic communication, into bilingual speech patterns that I have called Language alternation (R. JOCOBSON, forthcoming). Accordingly, if a person produces sentences similar to those that were recorded some 20 years ago like :

  1. Los pensamientos de uno del otro lado es take over where you(!) working at the thoughts of someone from the other side is
  2. Y lo logran. They continue helping their own family and they succeed.
  3. Trying to gain lo que perdió de juventud. (JOCOBSON, 1977) what he lost when he was young.

where resources from the two languages are so intertwined that we can no longer determine which one is dominant and which, subordinate, might we then assume that his cultural biases are equally balanced? To reverse this argument, might we predict that the more culturally balanced an individual is, the more likely is he/she to alternate between the languages as shown in examples (1)-(3)?

The so adapted/expanded version of the Lambert instrument was used to identify the degree of biculturality of a group of thirteen Mexican-American undergraduates taking a bilingual education course at the University of Texas at San Antonio. After being recorded in their informal conversations with peers where they were free and even encouraged to alternate between their two languages, if switching between languages was natural to them in such encounters, the subjects were given the revised version of the instrument and asked to complete all parts of it.

For the biculturality index, each conversant was measured from one to five (1 - 5) on each item of the questionnaire where 1 meant hispanic monocultural, 2 meant hispanic culture dominant, 3 meant truly bicultural, 4 meant general American dominant and 5, general American monocultural. The total points were then divided by the numbers of items in the questionnaire yielding a rough average of points ranging from 2.64 to 3.23. As not every subject would respond to all the items, a second average was calculated on the basis of items answered. This new average ranged from 1.41 to 3.03. The mean between the two averages was then determined and this mean would be considered the actual index of biculturality. It ranged from 2.31 to 3.13. The result showed, accordingly, that all subjects were reasonably close to the ideal biculturality index of 3 with three of them scoring closer to 3 than the remaining ten. Table 1 reflects the cultural assessments of the participants in the present experiment.

Item # Fe Ro Vp Sso Ad Jg Ao Mm Rav Bg Cp Ba Rr Gm
(1a) 4 1 1 4 3 3 4 3 3 3 3 2 3 -
(1b) 2 1 1 2 3 3 2 3 1 3 3 2 4 -
(1c) 2 4 1 - 3 3 3 3 2 2 3 2 3 -
(1d) 2 2 3 - 4 2 4 3 2 2 3 2 - -
(1e) 3 2 2 - 4 2 4 3 1 1 2 2 - -
(2a) 2 2 2 4 3 3 2 3 4 3 2 2 3 -
(2b) 2 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 -
(3a) 2 2 4 5 4 2 4 4 4 4 2 4 3 -
(3b) 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 3 4 2 2 3 3 -
(3c.1) - 3 3 3 2 3 3 3 3 2 3 3 2 -
(3c.2) 3 3 2 3 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 -
(4a) - - 4 - 4 3 2 3 2 3 - 4 4 -
(4b) - 3 3 3 2 2 2 3 2 3 2 4 4 -
(4c) - 3 4 3 3 - 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 -
(4d.1) 3 4 3 3 2 2 3 4 2 2 3 2 3 -
(4d.2) 4 5 5 - 4 3 2 4 5 4 4 2 3 -
(4d.3) 3 3 4 - 3 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 -
(5a.1) - 3 - - - 3 - 3 2 - - 2 3 -
(5a.2) - 3 - - - - - 4 3 - - - 3 -
(5a.3) - 3 3 - - - - - 3 - - - 3 -
(6a) 3 3 3 - 3 - 3 2 2 3 - 3 3 -
(6b) 3 3 3 - 3 - 2 3 2 3 3 3 2 -
(6c) 3 4 3 - 3 - 3 - 2 3 3 3 - -
(6d) 2 4 4 - 4 2 2 2 2 2 1 2 2 -
(7a) 2 1 2 2 3 3 2 2 3 3 2 2 4 -
(7b) 3 3 - - 3 3 3 3 4 4 3 2 3 -
(7c) 4 3 3 - 3 4 - 3 3 4 2 2 4 -
(7d) 3 3 3 - 4 1 2 2 3 3 1 3 4 -
(8a) 4 2 3 - 4 2 2 - 3 2 3 3 3 -
(8b) 4 2 3 3 4 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 -
(8c) 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 -
(8d) 3 2 3 - 5 3 4 4 3 3 4 4 4 -
(9) - 3 - - 4 - - - - - - - - -
Total 72 89 84 45 97 66 77 85 87 83 78 77 93 -
Scored items 25 32 29 14 30 25 27 28 31 28 26 30 29 -
Average,all 2.18 2.70 2.62 1.41 3.03 2.06 2.40 2.65 2.71 2.59 2.19 2.32 2.91 -
Average,
scored
2.88 2.78 2.89 3.21 3.23 2.64 2.85 3.03 2.81 2.96 2.69 2.57 3.21 -
Mean 2.66 2.74 2.75 2.31 3.13 2.35 2.67 2.84 2.76 2.77 2.44 2.45 3.06 -
Rating 8 7 6 13 2 12 9 3 5 4 11 10 1 0

 

    1. Language alternation as result of bicultural balance

Angéline MARTEL

Votre hypothèse principale, à savoir que le plus biculturel un individu apparaît dans son comportement, le plus bilingue il sera dans son alternance codique, a-t-elle été vérifiée?

Rodolfo JOCOBSON

The three individuals who turned out closest to the ideal bicultural index 3 did indeed generate utterances that we have called above Language Alternation. For reasons of time limitation I am including excerpts from the speech of Rr who scored highest in the biculturality index :

  1. Bueno, yo también tengo familia, tengo, pos,...vivimos aquí en San Antonio. Yo
    good, i also have family, i have, eh,.......we live here in san antonio. I
    y mi esposo tenemos a mi hijo de diez años y tenemos una niña de ocho años, And my husband have my son of ten and we have a girl of eight
    y tenemos la bebita y tiene tres años y todavía le decimos la bebita y tiene tres
    And we have the baby and we still call her the baby and she is three años pero to me the biggest thing that made me very happy was getting away years old but from the formula and diapers.
  2. Sí, yo quería un hombre, primero, y tuvimos a Jacob y luego quería una mujer yes,
    I wanted a boy, first, and we had jacob and then I wanted a girl and a Savannah
    y p' cuando llegó la tercera,
    we were ready for anything . Then we had Savannah and when the third one came
  3. Oh, algo así or other than that. Mi esposo no cree mucho en éso, él he's…
    Oh, something like that
    My husband does not believe much in that, he…
    Let's take him to the doctor', they have to go to the doctor.
  4. Le tiene miedo porque dice que no tiene mucha experiencia con niños,
    He's afraid of him because he says that he doesn't have much experience with children even though I know his mother did it for him when he was a child.

The bilingual balance exhibited in the preceding examples (5-8) is impressive and exemplifies language alternation well. On the other hand, not all utterances produced by this subject fall into the same category but, because of the speaker's ability to produce them at times, I venture to say that her high biculturality index is responsible for this ability to coin utterances in the language alternation mode that other less balanced biculturals were unable to produce.

We have argued in a recent paper (JOCOBSON, forthcoming) that the notion of language alternation is far from being settled. Some renowned linguists like Myers-Scotton contend that all language-switched utterances must contain a Matrix language (ML) portion as well as an element or elements of another language embedded into the grammatical frame which is ML-specific. The embedded elements from the other language are either content morphemes or other secondary,. non-crucial features that must follow the morphological dictate of the ML.

We, in turn, feel that there is another strategy present when speakers are fluent in both languages and lean now toward one culture, now, toward the other. A. Bentahila & E. Davies (in JOCOBSON, 1998) have shown in their Arabic-French data that a kind of switching exists where one needs to use the resources of both languages to fully capture the unfolding of the story. A. Bentahila as well as myself base ourselves on the sentence as basic unit of analysis, whereas Myers-Scotton feels that the complementizer projection (CP) should be its basis and this may account for the difference in our findings. The notion of Language alternation was actually proposed first by Bentahila-Davies in an insightful article on Moroccan Arabic-French codeswitching (in R. JOCOBSON, ed., 1998). As a matter of fact, the recognition of this notion may in some cases be the most convincing way of locating an intersection between biculturalism and bilingualism.

 

  • Codeswitching in Malaysia
    1. Preliminaries

 Angéline MARTEL

Vous avez effectué les mêmes études en Malaysie. Décrivez-nous tout d'abord le contexte malaysien de votre étude.

Rodolfo JOCOBSON

The national language of Malaysia is Bahasa Malaysia or simply Malay as legislated in the constitution upon gaining independence from Britain in 1957. The former colonial language, English, did however not disappear, although its presence was at low key for some time in order to allow the indigenous language to fully impose itself as the language of the Nation. The mixing of English and Malay is however quite frequent and can be attested not only in informal settings but also in professional discussions at businesses and in universities. Much of such mixing of the two most important languages of the country bears a great deal of similarity with what has been observed in the Mexican American context.

 Angéline MARTEL

Et qu'en est-il de l'alternance codique en Malaysie, selon vos études?

Rodolfo JOCOBSON

Language embeddings as well as language alternations are present and most Malaysians feel very comfortable with the incorporation of one language into the other. Not only do Malaysians believe in the acceptability of such language strategy when interacting with peers or family members but also when engaging in interactions with colleagues and superiors. I have gathered codeswitching data in a variety of different settings and his most recent project involved recordings at university committee meetings where topics of discussion were obviously of a professional nature. The following examples illustrate the switching behavior of Malaysians at the work force :

  1. Still preliminary some of the programs, baru jot down dia punya objektif sahaja
    Just… Its objective only.
  2. Beliau ada menyertakan slip daripada private doctors.
    He needs to accompany from
  3. ...projek paper ini akan dinilai semula oleh penilai kedua just to make sure
    This Project will be evaluated again by a second evaluator that you know they are as bad or they are as good as the grades given.
  4. Kita tak boleh kata because she does not perform well in one of the courses. We cannot say
    kita ambil tiga daftar kira, kita kena ambil all for nothing package. We take three recorded grades, we must take (UKM:sm, 1.24/18/8/32) (4)

Example (9) exemplifies an English language matrix with Malay embedding, example (10), a Malay language matrix with English embedding, example (11) and (12) are instances of language alternation where neither language overshadows the other. Given the great similarity, from the language perspective, between English-Spanish and English-Malay switching, one must now wonder whether the presence of English in Malay matches its presence in Spanish in the sense that it also reflects a bicultural perspective as I have suggested for the Mexican-American setting. To answer this question, we must now examine more closely the status of English in Malaysia.

    1. English in Malaysia

Angéline MARTEL

Et que vous disent vos études en rapport au développement de l'anglais en Malaysie?

Rodolfo JOCOBSON

One can divide, according to Gill (1999), the development of English in Malaysia into three phases, the dependent / exonormative phase, the independent / liberation phase and the pragmatice post-independence phase.

This exonormative model relied heavily on the preservation of colonial English, the British RP variety of the language that was to serve as a "focal point for pedagogical and communicative standards" (Gill, 1999:216). During the independent/liberation phase, in turn, new ideas concerning English emerged based on the belief that "English is used all over the world and belongs to everybody" (op. cit.:217).

In the Malaysian scenario, the speakers are exposed, not only to Malay and English, but also to a variety of other languages spoken natively by several different ethnic groups that make up this multiethnic nation. Hence, Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka, Tamil and a variety of aboriginal languages can all be heard in the country. This sociolinguistic matrix in which Malaysians and many other Asian nations are submerged leads us to this second phase where English is crossfertilized and becomes a new linguistic unit. Kachru refers to this development as the second diaspora of English during which the seeds of the language are spread in enormously diverse sociocultural environments and the resultant varieties of the language show this diversity. (Kachru, 1985:14 in Gill, 1999: 218).

As one reaches the last phase, the post-independent/endonormative phase, the ongoing changes in English are being consolidated and a new pragmatic attitude toward them arises. This new attitude involves the acceptance for Malaysia of three lectal varieties of English, i.e., acrolect, mesolect and basilect which all differ profoundly from the earlier standard of RP English. Says Gill (1993: 224) in this respect

[T]he three sociolects (i.e., acrolect, mesolect and basilect) display manifest varying features at the syntactical, lexical, and phonological levels. The acrolect could be the prescribed pedagogical norm necessary for international communication. The mesolect is the variety that is used for intranational communication, between Malaysians of varying ethnicity as a medium of local communication. The basilect, because of its extreme differences from the standard, is almost unintelligible outside of the speech communities in which it is developed.

None of the three lectal varieties of English are acquired as a first language, since Malaysians of Malay ethnicity learn as a first language Malay, those of Chinese ethnicity, one of the regional Chinese varieties and those of Indian ethnicity, Tamil or some other regional Indian language.

By the same token, Malaysians when learning English will do so through exposure to some ESL performance, whether informally at home or formally in a school setting. Hence, there is a minimal anglo-cultural impact through language acquisition as the instructor shares with learner the same familiar background. This fact may be relevant when discussing the cultural identity of speakers who engage into switching strategies that incorporate elements from English and Malay.

    1. Malay-English codeswitchers in cultural perspective

Angéline MARTEL

Apprendre une nouvelle langue implique également l'internationalisation d'éléments culturels. Qu'en disent vos études pour analyser la biculturalité?

Rodolfo JOCOBSON

A keen awareness for the notion of time underlies the system of verbal tenses in English. The native speaker knows when he needs to use the present, the past, the present perfect, the past perfect and so forth. The Malay speaker does not share this awareness as there are no verbal tenses to pinpoint the time when an action is performed, although there are ways to distinguish between a now-action, an already accomplished action, a long ago-completed action and a will-do action by preceding the verb form with adverb-like expressions like sedang, sudah, pernah or akan.

On the other hand, the speaker of Malay possesses a highly intricate system of affixes (prefixes, infix and suffixes) by means of which he expresses transitivity, causativeness, possessiveness, pronominal suffixation and many other morphological features like meN-, -kan, ber-and -nya.

The English speaker, in turn, would require additional lexical items to convey most of these notions. For the Malay to learn English or for the native speaker of English to learn Malay requires some adaptation to the structural devices of the target language. This is certainly a matter of cultural learning. But does this cultural learning process lead to biculturality as I have suggested for the Mexican-American in the United States?

    1. Full vs. limited biculturality

Angéline MARTEL

Une biculturalité pleine et entière est-elle donc possible, et comment le contexte apporte-t-il ses variantes?

Rodolfo JOCOBSON

The full biculturality attained by some Mexican-Americans who switch from English to Spanish or vice-versa seems to originate from the high degree of English language proficiency and from the close contact with Anglo-Americans who - as is obvious - are native speakers of English and as such are exponents of the American culture. As for the Malaysians, it appears that some may have accomplished an equal degree of English language proficiency but lack contact with native speakers of English as they have acquired the language from others who are also second language English speakers; hence, there is no cultural transmission except for what the language per se contains in matters of cultural idiosyncracy.

One may call this, limited biculturality. I had not been aware of the difference in degree of cultural learning between the two target groups until I addressed an audience at the National University of Malaysia where he talked about the Mexican-American study and suggested that, if a similar project were implemented in Malaysia, such a study would show an equally high level of biculturality. Comments by Malaysian (5) colleagues during my presentation led me to reconsider some of my views on Malaysian biculturality in the sense that Americans of Mexican descent and Malaysians of a variety of different backgrounds might differ in their degrees of awareness in regard to what the acquisition of the English language may mean to them from the cultural perspective.

 

  • Conclusion

Angéline MARTEL

Quelles conclusions tirez-vous de ces études comparatives sur la biculturalité?

Rodolfo JOCOBSON

It has been my purpose to identify language alternation, that is, the bilingual mode that uses both languages in balanced distribution, as mode of bilingual behavior that is found in two target populations, the Mexican-Americans of the United States and the Malays of Malaysia.

Of the selected subjects in the Mexican-American study, three qualified as being closest to the ideal score of biculturality and the linguistic performance of the one with highest biculturality index was examined in the expectation that the most balanced bicultural subject would also produce the most balanced bilingual performance. Some excerpts from the conversations of the subjects have been given above and it is shown that these mixed utterances fall indeed into the category of Language alternation, thus giving credence to the fact that the more bicultural the person, the more balanced is his/her bilingual performance.

As for the second target population, the presence of this kind of biculturality was less evident. To explore it, I discussed the status of English in Malaysia with special emphasis on how the language survived after the country had attained independence from Britain and how the language was being nativized to suit the needs of a free nation. Three lectal varieties were recognized for Malaysia and the cultural learning through language acquisition was considered. Finally, the two target populations were compared to argue for full biculturality for the Mexican-American setting and limited biculturality - based only on English language acquisition - for the Malaysian setting. More research, especially for the Malaysian setting, appears warranted in order to determine how bicultural a person becomes as he uses two languages in a balanced way when he communicates with peers and/or colleagues.


Note :

(1) Cet entretien provient d'un texte de communication au colloque " La dynamique des langues: perspectives sociocritiques " tenu le 18 mai 2000 lors du 68e Congrès de l'Acfas à l'Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada. Retour

(3) ASSESSMENT OF BICULTURALITY (Adapted fromWallace Lambert,Ethnic identification and personality adjustments, 1969) Retour

(4) I wish to expresses my gratitude to Sandra Khor Manickam, Azean Abu Samad and Norhasliza Hassan for transcribing and to Marlyna Maros of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia for making this recording available to me in the first place. Retour

(5) I express my gratitude to Dr. Saran Kaur Gill for her candid remarks during my lecture at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in January, 2000. Her reactions have been instrumental to reassessing my view of biculturality in the Malaysian context. Retour

 


  • References

BENTAHILA, Abdelâli and Eirlys DAVIES. 1998. Codeswitching: An unequal partnership? In R. JOCOBSON, (Ed.), Codeswitching Worldwide, 25-29.

DIL, Anwar. 1972. Language, society and culture, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

JOCOBSON, Rodolfo. 1978. The social implications of intra-sentential codeswitching. In Ricardo ROMO and Raymund PAREDES, (Eds.), New Directions in Chicano Scholarship, 227-256. JOCOBSON, Rodolfo. 1999a. Language alternation as a measure of bicultural behavior, Paper delivered at the XVII National Conference on Spanish in the United States, Florida International University, Coral Gables, FL, March 11. (Unpublished)

JOCOBSON, Rodolfo. 1999b . NCA and LA, two close cousins in the bilingual universe. Paper delivered at the International Symposium, Bilingualism and Biliteracy through Schooling, Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, July 15.

JOCOBSON, Rodolfo. In press. Language Alternation: The third kind of codeswitching mechanism. In R. JOCOBSON, ed.

JOCOBSON, Rodolfo. 1998. Ed. Codeswitching Worldwide, Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter

LAMBERT, Wallace. 1969. Ethnic identification and personality adjustments of Canadian adolescents of mixed English-French parentage. In A. Dil, ed., Language,Society and Culture. 266-289.

ROMO, Ricardo and Raymund PAREDES. 1978. (Eds.). New Directions in Chicano Scholarship, La Jolla, CA: The University of California at San Diego.