Adeola Agoke

2014-15 Research Report

My curiosity about what bilingual speakers do with language triggered my interest to research codeswitching. But more specifically, my interest moved beyond the well-known conversational contexts involving two or multiple speakers. As an M.A student in the department of African Languages and Literature in 2011-2013, I sought to explicate the unique linguistic and social processes that characterize codeswitching in a monologic discourse—a  form of interaction in which only one speaker functions as the active interlocutor while other participants constitute the audience. I therefore found the sermonic data of a Pentecostal church very relevant to understanding the process of language production and sociocultural factors that motivate codeswitching in a monologic discourse.

My research site was South-Western Nigeria, a context that is characterized by bilingualism. Socially, all the languages of the region are assigned functional roles. However, there are often functional leakages in the assigned roles which results in codemixing and switches in varied social contexts. In my analysis of the monologic communication, the preacher is a rational being who is conscious of the linguistic, socio-cultural, and ideological domains and differences of his social milieu; he acknowledges as well as exploit or maneuver through such complex variations to achieve his occupational goals. The preacher engages different languages to sustain the attention of his audience. It is interesting that the code selection he makes at different point of his sermon reflects the social, cultural and linguistic characteristics of his audience. His choice of words is not random, but they are chosen to converge with different nationalities, languages and cultures that are included in his congregation.

Beyond the different languages that interact in the church setting, the audience also constitutes a hybrid of Christian and traditional culture of the people. The preacher therefore switches from one code to the other to converge with the church culture and to diverge from the traditional culture of the community. In a sense, the preacher exploits social, cultural and linguistic constraints to select his codes. Like the dialogic interaction, code switching in a monologic discourse is constrained by the morphological and syntactic rules of the languages involved to determine the switch junctures. Specifically, in a  monologic discourse, the audience influences the preacher’s code selection, and this influence constructs codeswitching in the sermonic discourse as an interesting sociolinguistic phenomenon that models language as a functional tool that fosters social co-existence of people, languages and cultures of a bilingual community.