English in the Chinese discourse of Chinese professionals in London: Register and social factors.
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Most sociolinguistic studies on code-switching (hereafter CS) have been situated in face-to-face communication, with a few recent studies extending their interest to CS in online environments (e.g. Androutsopoulos, 2013). Very few studies have considered both spoken and online registers of CS usage by individuals. This study describes variation in the form, frequency and discourse functions of English use (i.e. CS to English) within Chinese discourse across registers (spoken and online written), among a group of bilingual professionals based in London. This study also assesses how the social factors of network (openness and ethnicity of network), attitudes, and proficiency, of which the intersecting importance in influencing CS use has been increasingly recognized, interact in their effect on different types of CS across different registers. The data are taken from 40 participants aged 25–40, and include recorded semi-structured interviews, questionnaire data on social factor details, and social networking data from the website SinaWeibo. Quantitative and qualitative analyses are conducted to examine the differences between registers in CS use. The influences of social factors on CS are assessed through multivariate analysis. The results indicate that register strongly affects CS use. Social influences on CS also vary along with register differences. To account for these findings, a model is proposed, in which the frequency and complexity of CS is inversely correlated with cognitive load demanded by register, at least within informal registers used by L2 English speakers. In terms of social factors, as the demand of practicing CS or cognitive demand of register increases, the influence of attitudes gradually gives way to that of ethnicity of network type. Theoretical implications and contributions of the findings for the wider understanding of CS, in particular the importance of register to CS style and the interaction between cognitive and social constraints, are considered and discussed.
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