The Further Ethnicisation of language: The Creole Issue

Get Complete Project Material File(s) Now! »

CHAPTER 3 Methodology


This chapter will deal with four fundamental methodological issues underpinning this thesis, namely (i) research design (ii) the definition of a sample frame (iii) the procedures adopted for data analysis and (iv) the analytical framework implemented during the pilot study and subsequently the rest of the project. The first section deals with issues surrounding research design in the field of CS and will act as a precursor to other subsections centred on the size and the nature of the sample of informants recruited for this study and the set of practices adopted during the data collection and analysis phases of this project. Finally, it will shed light upon how all these factors were brought together and contributed to the creation of and implementation of the pilot and subsequently the larger-scale study that lies at the heart of this thesis.

Research Design: Methodology in the field of CS

During her research into language alternation phenomena in East Harlem’s El Barrio in the late 1970s, Zentella (1997) acknowledges that she often found herself overwhelmed by the complexity of the linguistic behaviour displayed by her Spanish-English bilingual Puerto Rican informants. Moving from casual observation of CS to the setting up of a systematic framework capable of providing explanatory credence to the Bloque’s children’s ability to transform simple conversational exchanges into pragmatically consequential utterances, Zentella (1997, 76) bemoaned what she perceived as being the over-emphasis on the grammatical facets of CS at the expense of its communicative functions, pointing out that:
In part, this was because the starting point of most of the past research was the switches themselves, and not the context that gives rise to them and in which they serve distinctive functions. Qualitative approaches had been of crucial theoretical importance but had not focused on the primary community networks in which code-switching is acquired and used, i.e. the networks of home and the community.
In other words, while the orderliness of code alternation phenomena was no longer in question, its corresponding socio-functional locus was often ignored.
From both a theoretical and a methodological perspective, this situation was remedied a few years later with the setting down of a few key conceptual assumptions proposed by Myers-Scotton (2002) who puts forward a model that successfully merges insights from both the MM and Auer’s CA approach in order to postulate a set of three cumulative filters and to provide strong methodological guidance to researchers in the field of CS. Reflecting the intricate cognitive mechanisms that govern code selection, maintenance and shift amongst proficient bilinguals, the RC model lends itself to a multivariate analysis of the inter-relationship among firstly, socio-economic factors (such as class, gender, age and ethnicity); secondly, situational factors (along the lines of participant and topic selection) and finally language choice. Its ability to effectively embrace tenets from both the identity-related and the organisational stance to CS makes it a comprehensive tool endowed with the potential to exhaustively investigate the socio-pragmatics of language alternation continua. Before moving on to provide an insight into the methodology adopted by this study, this section will firstly focus on the key methodological principles put forward by the RC approach to CS.
Indeed, so far, in the field of CS, most key theorists including Auer (1984) and Myers-Scotton (1998) herself have used the interview as their main form of data collection. Given the difficulties in eliciting CS, multi-party interactions were, more often than not, a priority38. However, Myers-Scotton’s (2002) new RC approach has the potential of providing guidelines that could be helpful to all researchers working in the field of CS. In fact, the latter draws extensively from Sociology, more specifically Rational Choice Theory, in order to explain the multifaceted factors affecting speaker choice (Myers-Scotton 2002). Basing herself on rationalist methodology, her approach to CS can be classified as “thick or social-situation rationalis[m] [which] incorporate[s] different auxiliary assumptions” (Lichbach 2003, 29). In other words, she contends that actions cannot be extricated from their social context and that, as a result, this makes them inherently malleable and subject to change. Speakers, far from mindlessly following preset patterns of marked or unmarked linguistic behaviour, could, in fact, opt to express their individuality at all points in the interaction by willingly modifying their behaviour in keeping with the shifting conversational foci of an interaction. Language alternation becomes, therefore, a form of “individual behavior [that] itself depends on social facts” (Kincaid 1996, 150). From a methodological standpoint, the analysis of such context-sensitive individual behaviour can be studied by investigating the co-relation between microlevel factors such as issues of norms, preferences and dis-preferences and macro factors for instance social structures, institutions and constraints (Lichbach 2003). For the purposes of this study, the following key aspects of a context-sensisitive and rationally-oriented methodology will be adopted:
Rational Choice theorists choose to make sense of microlevel phenomena by linking them to macrolevel explanations. Lichbach (2003) cites Bates (1989, 1) who opens his book by claiming that “[t]his book is […] about the politics and economics of agriculture. And it is about Kenya”. As the above quotation reveals, Bates’s objective is to reach an understanding of the decisions taken by authorities regarding issues of profit and loss in the field of agriculture. However, instead of theorising in the abstract, the researcher chooses to focus on one particular sociogeographical context, namely Kenya. Similarly in the case of CS, as far as this study is concerned, the aim is to illustrate and explain a language alternation continuum ranging from what Auer (1999) calls as ‘simple CS’ to Language Mixing and ultimately to Fused Lects. In so doing, though, the researcher needs to focus her empirical lenses on one particular sociolinguistic context: Mauritius.
Reaching macrolevel insights through the scaffolding provided by microlevel phenomena becomes possible only through the active contribution of the individuals carrying out specific actions in relevant contexts. Consequently, analysts must always accept a participant’s own judgement regarding the best course of action for him/her to follow and must, subsequently, base their own analysis of the participants’ actions upon the latter’s perspective. This ties in with one of the basic tenets of CA and Myers-Scotton’s (2002) second filter which states that analysts need to always adopt an emic perspective while evaluating the language choices made by speakers.
Taylor (1991, 367–368) maintains that methodological practices, in the field of Rational Choice, require analysts to provide fine-grained explanations regarding “causal links beginning and terminating at individuals”. In other words, it is imperative for researchers to lend more importance to the informants’ perspective during the analysis process. Participants are the ones who can connect the dots between their language behaviour and the rationale behind it.Similarly, Myers-Scotton argues that code selection should be viewed as being a deeply individualistic endeavour that allows speakers to assess the various ingredients, both social and conversational, and to either opt to maintain the existing status quo or to modify it in keeping with the persona that they wish to project at that particular point in the interaction. In his reading of the methodological specificities of the RC model, Levine (2011) concurs with the above argument and points out that after years of viewing the identity-related and the interactional approach to CS as being fundamentally different in approach, the RC model finally provides Myers, -Scotton (2002) with the opportunity to build both a theoretical and an empirical bridge between the two by finally acknowledging that while individuals do, indeed, approach a conversation with their own identity-related particularities firmly in mind and these are enacted in conversation only when (and if) particular interactional conditions are met. Consequently, studies adopting an RC-driven methodology need to ensure that the causative factors behind the conversational behaviour of interactants is carefully brought to the fore and explained, not only in keeping with a priori assumptions but also in the light of a posteriori facts gleaned from the interactional encounter.

CHAPTER 1 The Language Situation in Mauritius
1.0 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Aims and Research Questions
1.3 Multilingualism in Mauritius: From the 18th century onwards
1.4 Mauritius in figures
1.5 A Period of change: 2000–2013
1.6 The Further Ethnicisation of language: The Creole Issue
1.7 Multilingualism and Language Choice in Mauritius
1.8 Overview of the Thesis
CHAPTER 2 Literature Review
2.0 Introduction
2.1 Traditional perspectives on code-switching
2.2 Towards a redefinition of code-switching
2.3 Mixed Codes
2.4 Fusion
2.5 CS continuum: A critique
2.6 Conclusion
CHAPTER 3 Methodology
3.0 Introduction
3.1 Research Design: Methodology in the field of CS
3.2 The Sample
3.3 Data collection and analytical framework
3.4 Conclusion
CHAPTER 4 Analysis of Code-Switching Data 
4.0 Introduction
4.1 The Conversational loci of Code Switching
4.2 Mixed Codes
4.3 Fused Lects
CHAPTER 5 Discussion of Results and Conclusion 
5.0 Introduction
5.1 Summary of Findings
5.2 Impact of the CS continuum: Language Policy and Planning in Mauritius
5.3 CS continuum in Mauritius: Performing multilingualism
5.5 Directions for future research
5.6 Conclusion

Related Posts