Codeswitching in Online Written Communication among Arabic English Bilinguals: A Sociolinguistic Perspective

Nada Saleh Alsamhan, Fatimah Almutrafi


This study aims to investigate the sociolinguistic functions of code-switching in tweets. It also examines the potential effects of two social variables, namely gender and education, as well as whether language choice relates to topic. The study adopts Myers-Scotton’s (1993) Markedness Model and Malik’s (1994) Model to analyze the data. The findings revealed that each code choice served different functions such as avoiding a lack of facility, addressing a different audience or showing users’ religious or cultural identity. Gender of twitter users showed significant effects on language choice, i.e., females preferred posting tweets completely in their native language whereas males preferred posting codeswitched tweets. Educational level, also, revealed some effects on language choice. Namely, tweets in the native language were posted more frequently by participants with below college education, while the combination of the bilingual’s two languages was utilized more often by those with high education. As for codeswitched tweets, participants with college education showed the highest preference for this code choice. Furthermore, Twitter users switched codes based on topic, e.g., Arabic-written tweets were frequently associated with religion-related hashtags whereas English-written tweets were associated with education-related topics. Social-related topics accounted for the highest number of codeswitched tweets. Overall, this study lends evidence to the view that online communication influences the choice of the language used.


Code-switching, Language Choice, Sociolinguistics, Twitter Users

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