Linguistics and English Language

Language in context seminar

Speaker: Ali Almuhayya (Linguistics and English Language, University of Edinburgh)

Title: Language choice and code-switching in English and Arabic in the informal written practices of students

Abstract: This presentation is about initial results for ongoing research that investigate language choice and code-switching in informal written practices as, so far, little attention has been paid to them. (see Sebba, Mahootian and Johnson, 2012). Data collection are informal notes written in students’ notebooks and complemented by observational data collected in classrooms and interview data obtained from a sample of students.

As two languages, namely English (the declared medium of instruction) and Arabic (students’ ordinary language) are available, two main research questions were addressed: (a) which of these two languages can be seen as the ‘medium’ (Gafaranga, 2007) of these practices? (b) are there any specifiable motivation for deviating from the medium, i.e. for using the other language?

Results reveal that although the majority of written practices were in English, the medium is not this choice. This claim was based on the notion of two categories of speech representations (Leech &Short, (1981). The motivation for deviating to use English found on students’ direct speech while their speech reporting can be in both languages’ choices (Arabic and English).


  • Garafanga, J. (2007). Code-switching as a conversational strategy. In P. Auer & L. Wei (Eds.), Handbook of multilingualism and multilingual communication (pp. 279–314). New York, NY: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Sebba, M., Mahootian, S., & Jonsson, C. (2012). Language Mixing and Code-Switching in Writing: Approaches to Mixed-Language Written Discourse (Routledge Critical Studies in Multilingualism). Taylor and Francis.
  • Leech, G., Short, M. (1981). Stile in fiction: A linguistic introduction to English fictional prose. London: Longman.


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Stephen McNulty

Sarah Van Eyndhoven

Co-ordinators of LinC

Apr 02 2021 -

Language in context seminar

2021-04-02: Language choice and code-switching in English and Arabic in the informal written practices of students

Online via link invitation