Code-switching as a means of cultural identity among Koreans in Toronto

Submitted By: Sheila Chung
University of Toronto, Toronto, ON

Code-switching is the alternation of two languages within a single discourse, sentence or constituent (Poplack, 1981) as in the examples below:

(1) 제대로 배운 영어기 때문에 악쌘트 (accent) 는 훨씬 좋아요 커뮤니케잇트 (communicate) 할때.
Translation: Because [my wife] learned English correctly, her accent is far better than mine when she communicates.
(2) 항상미래에데한 어떤 비전 (vision) 이나 꿈을가지고 […] Translation: I always have the vision of the future in mind […]

This paper examines how code-switching correlates to one’s cultural identity among first and second generation Koreans in Toronto and in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) by calculating the frequency of code-switching in the data. A total of 16 participants (8 first generation, 8 second generation) were recruited and Keefe and Padilla’s Ethnicity Questionnaire (1987) was translated to Korean and it was used to determine the speakers’ cultural identity (that is, Korean,
Korean-Canadian or Canadian). Because code-switching is a common language practice among bilinguals, language functions to reflect and establish a person’s identity. Previous research concerning code- switching and cultural identity has indicated that when speakers make language choices inconversations, they are symbolizing the kind of identity they hope to communicate with others (Milroy and Muysken, 1995). Given this, this study raised the following questions: 1) Do people code-switch more frequently if they identify themselves as Korean-Canadian or Canadian? Likewise, do people code-switch less frequently if they identify themselves as Korean? and 2) do first generation Koreans tend to see themselves as Koreans (as opposed to Korean-Canadians or Canadians)?


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