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HD: Word Crimes
Posted: 20 July 2014 12:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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No, as I said, “the ability to code switch comes with necessity and practice.” One must learn to speak the other dialect; it’s not simply a matter of motivation, but anyone can learn to do it. Logophile was implying that only the educated code switch, which is patently not true.

What I said was, “…usually only the educated group can switch codes…”

I was referring to my father’s generation, which I irresponsibly omitted in my post. I disagree, however, that my statement is patently false. Furthermore, at that time there was no necessity to code switch, nor was there the means or inclination to practice. I agree anyone can learn to do it with practice but that can refer to many things that require necessity and practice.

From the 1900’s through the 50’s there were many poor young Italians who were forced to go to work. They either dropped out of school at a very young age, or never attended school whatsoever. 

The majority of these Italians spoke exclusively in the dialect of their region and could not speak standard Italian. Unfortunately many could not even read or write.
My father’s housekeeper could not read or speak Standard Italian; she could only speak Romanesco, the Roman dialect. Illiteracy was more prevalent in the rural areas where farmers had little or no contact with city life.

Italian immigrants to the United States were mainly laborers and contadini (peasants) who could neither read nor write and spoke with a strong dialect. The Italian they spoke as characterized in the many American-Italian gangster films, such as the Godfather, is a crude dialect that these immigrants brought over and they certainly could not switch registers. 

For that reason, it seems plausible that an Italian who was not educated and who could not speak Standard Italian would also be unable to code switch. It’s also feasible, but less common, that many Italians who were not educated might be able to code switch.

Today this is far less of an occurrence because of better education and technology. Sadly, however, many of the Italian dialects are disappearing. The younger generations are not learning them anymore.
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Posted: 20 July 2014 01:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Labov’s famous experiment with code-switching among NYC department store employees is perhaps the most famous study of the phenomenon—and which shows that education or class doesn’t have anything to do with one’s ability to switch.

One would hope to recognize, however, that there are innate differences in an individual person’s ability to do anything, including code-switching.

A couple of years ago there was a guy at the local paint store who could switch between English and Spanish with amazing alacrity, that is, he was dealing with multiple customers at the same time who spoke different languages. No one shook his hand and gave him an award, but in a way he was a genius. (I realize that “code” does not equate with “language”.)

Logophile’s point seems clearly to have been that persons from a mobile class (the educated) would have more opportunity, need, and reason to code-switch. It’s also fairly obvious that if you don’t speak a dialect (standard or educated or regional) you can’t switch into it. Pretty clearly a merchant from southern Italy who travels to northern Italy on a regular basis, even if he lacks an education, is going to code-switch to support his business. Finally, one must ask the question of the Labov experiment whether the NYC department store employees were code-switching competently. I think the upper-middle-class customers may have been gratified by the fact that the shop girls were “speaking their language” but I doubt they approved 100% of their usage and grammar or were inclined to invite them over to the house to meet their sons as potential brides.

[ Edited: 20 July 2014 02:51 AM by Iron Pyrite ]
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