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Hanan Ben Nafa

Code-Switching as an Evaluative Strategy: Identity Construction among Arabic-English Bilinguals in Manchester

This is an ethnographic study investigating the code-switching (CS) practices of a friendship group of five adult, female, non-UK born, Arabic-English bilinguals based in Manchester. By viewing CS as an evaluative stance and a tool for negotiating identity, the aim is to examine the ways in which the participants’ CS is utilised as a linguistic resource to perform their interactional identities. The main evaluative strategy explored is ‘attitude’ and the way it is expressed through the participants’ individual and relational CS moves.

Through carrying out a moment-by-moment analysis of recordings of a range of naturally-occurring data, such as peer-group interactions, this study investigates how variability in the participants’ CS instances is used to shift speakers’ evaluative stances and attitudinal positions. By deploying the APPRAISAL model to systematically analyse the different CS moves the study’s participants make, the thesis has the additional aim of utilising an unconventional methodological tool in the CS field.

The analysis showed a marked tendency among the participants to switch into English to specifically take up (positive) evaluative stances and create different interactional effects. This is particularly the case for expressing emotions (through AFFECT), making compliments (through APPRECIATION) and engaging in banter (through JUDGEMENT). Expressing these attitudes is therefore regarded as the triggering force behind the participants’ CS instances. This thesis argues that the high frequency of evaluative English code-switches the participants exhibit is partly explained by the attitudinal shifts these bilinguals make when switching between both languages. These shifts are considered to be partially triggered by the difference in the cultural values the participants associate with each language group (Libyan/Arabic vs. British).

The thesis ends with a discussion of this study’s implications for the APPRAISAL theory and providing some directions for future research where areas of APPRAISAL and CS can be combined more fruitfully.


Research Degree: PhD, Full-time
Department: Languages, information and communications
Funded: Manchester Metropolitan University