The Sociolinguistic Dimensions of Code-switching between Arabic and English by Saudis

Journal Article
Issue Number: 
Volume Number: 
99 to 109
Publication Abstract: 

The neglected area of Arab speakers’ verbal performance in mixed-sex contexts is the focus of this study. This paper attempts to contribute to this area by studying the frequency and type of code-switches from Arabic into English in the casual conversations of young bilingual Saudis. Findings indicate that Saudi females’ style of speech was characterized by substantially more code-switching from Arabic into English particularly single noun and adjective switches than their male counterparts in both single and mixed sex interactions. Women’s turn-switches were marked by more linguistic convergence between one another, however they were less inclined to turn-switch to the language of a speaker of the opposite sex. Men’s code-switching performance at a turn boundary was overall more inclined towards linguistic divergence. The findings in relation to turn-switching would indicate that although these women and men interacted in mixed-sex settings, they still seemed to adhere to Saudi cultural values that encourage social distance between the sexes. It is argued that underpinning Arab women’s and men’s code-switching behavior are lingering cultural customs and gendered ideologies of language.