Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines

Hallo! Voulez vous luncher avec moi hüt? Le "code switching" dans la communication par SMS

Pekarek Doehler, Simona

In: Linguistik online, 2011, vol. 48, no. 4, p. 49-70

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    Within the last two decades, text messaging by means of SMS has become a central tool of communication around the globe. The use of more than one language for composing a message is wide spread, but, to this day, is relatively underrepresented in research. This paper presents an analysis of the plurilingual nature of SMS communication in Switzerland with the limelight on the forms and functions of code-switching within a set of 345 messages, base language of which is French. Results show that SMS users regularly exhibit code-switching even if they are not members of a bilingual speech community. Code-switching most frequently consists of inserts, i.e. embeddings of single items or combinations of items within a message composed in another language, and this typically involves (only) a limited range of routinized expressions. While English is the most frequently used language for codeswitching, German, Swiss German, Spanish and Italian are also recurrent, the latter two being particularly associated with terms of endearment. Code-switching regularly highlights the expression of actions that have a strong interpersonal (phatic) focus, such as greetings, goodbyes or thanks. It elucidates the expressive character of the messages, and is also associated with the expression of affection. The specificity of the plurilingual SMS repertoire is discussed in the paper's conclusion.