In today’s news, actor Samuel L. Jackson challenged President Obama to “be more presidential” and to “stop trying to relate.” That comment stemmed from a recent interview where the President was omitting the final “g” consonant at the end of his words. Many of us speak in the manner that Mr. Jackson is referencing; examples would be saying “walkin” for walking or “sayin” for saying.
Although, the actor refers to this as a grammatical issue, it’s actually part of a larger communication behavior, which linguists define as code-switching. This term is defined as an intentional or unintentional shift from one language to another, one dialect to another, or one style to another, for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons speakers opt to code-switch range from: showing solidarity with a social group, trying to distinguish oneself, participating in social encounters, or even impressing or persuading an audience.
This brief humorous video clip is one example of intentional code-switching :
Now that you’re aware of this communication behavior, pay attention to how others speak as well as your own speaking style. See if you can identify code-switching when relating to peers vs. family, colleagues vs. your boss or in any other context. It promises to be an ear-opener.
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