Centre for Assamese Studies

'Code Switching Mixing'-induced Changes in Modern Assamese and their Future Implication by Dr. Arup Kumar Nath

Another project that has been completed at the Centre for Assamese Studies, Tezpur University is 'Code-Switching-Mixing'-induced Changes in Modern Assamese and their Future Implication' by Dr. Arup Kumar which deals with various phonetic and morphological changes that have taken place in the Assamese language inflicted by the linguistic phenomena called 'Code-Switching' and 'Code-Mixing'. This project has been taken up for publication by Publication Board Assam.

'Code switching' and 'code mixing' two important phenomena of sociolinguistic study, refer to the insertion of a word or phrase from one language into an utterance of another language. It also implies the situation where a speaker shifts from the starting language to another language in the middle of the conversation. In the days of globalization and liberalization of market economies, remaining monolingual is a myth, rather multilingualism becomes the norm of the day. This situation has been propelled to a further height with the advancement of high-end technical devices. The distance between places is diminishing day by day. The 'isoglosses' i.e. the linguistic boundaries are getting blurred and hazy. In this contact scenario, a language is certain to get affected by various linguistic features from other languages. Many words, phrases from one language are found to be used extensively by the native speakers of another language.

With reference to Assamese linguistic scenario, it is pertinent to note that this language has been the 'lingua-franca' of this region for a long time. In fact, Nagamese of Nagaland and Nefamese of Arunachal Pradesh are direct offshoot of the Assamese language. The Assamese language is also surrounded by many Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic languages such as a) Bengali, Nepali and Hindi, b) Tiwa, Karbi, Deori, Dimasa, Bodo, Hmar, Tai-Phake, etc. c) Khasi, Saotali, Munda etc. In this contact situation any language is bound to get inflicted with various linguistic changes. The Assamese language has also undergone various changes due to the linguistic phenomena called 'code switching' and 'code mixing'. Although much have been written and discussed about the genealogy of the Assamese language, it has been proved over and again that Assamese has been in this region for a long time with its own idiosyncrasies. The historical account by renowned traveller Hiuen Ts'ang's observation can be cited as a testimony for this proposition. When he visited this region in 643 A.D, "he knew it as Ka-mo-lu-po' (Kamrupa) and noticed that the language being spoken by them was 'slightly differing' from that of mid-India." (Kakati: 1995). Moreover, Grierson, through his monumental treatise Linguistic Survey of India has first established the notion that most of the Modern Indo Aryan languages of North East India were evolved from Magadhi Prakrit through Magadhi Apabramsa, where Assamese counts the largest number of speakers in North East region.

In this research, the first chapter starts with an introductory note on the Assamese language; where this language is spoken and the constitutional status of the language etc. A linguistic map has also been added, followed by the description of the status of this language in Assam. This chapter also discusses some theories on code switching and mixing, typology of code switching and mixing, factors which are responsible for code mixing and switching and also the approach and attitude of the speakers for this linguistic phenomenon.

The second chapter of this research deals with a few case studies of CSM (Code Switching and Mixing) in Assamese. In the first place, some newspaper excerpts/headlines were considered to check this linguistic happening in the Assamese print media, which was followed by the instances of code mixing and switching in Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) such as in email chatting, social networking sites etc. This chapter was simply a description of CSM found among the Assamese speakers.

The last and the main chapter of this research explores the contact induced, especially, CSM induced changes that have been in operational in modern Assamese. This chapter has extensively dealt with various changes such as phonetic, morphological, syntactic, transliteration related changes and the approach being considered for the study of this research. For instance: phonetic changes such as school -> iskul, stupid -> istupid, pliers-> plus, addition of new lexical items like be-time, be-kasur, vindaz, masti, chalia, lafra, jhatka etc. all are studied from different linguistic parameters. Moreover, various word formation processes such as clipped words like fridge, cell, henki (handkerchief), riki (rickshaw), super, lab etc, acronyms, abbreviations, many Hindustani origin words, compounding and blending words like film+ utsav -> filmotsav-all have been incorporated in this study. This research also extensively studies the influence of Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic words which have been in use for a long time in the Assamese language. The phenomena of code switching and mixing have also affected the Assamese language at syntactic level i.e. at sentential level. The addition of copula verb where it is redundant, scrambling of verbal word to the initial position of the sentence, double usage of equivalent words from a foreign language etc. have also been taken into consideration in this research.

In this study, the most popular method of field linguistics that is the interview method was adopted to collect the raw data. Native speakers of the Assamese language were interviewed and accumulated the necessary data for the study. While taking interviews, MP3 recorder was also used to record the data. The questionnaire is heavily based on the model questionnaires given in Abbi's (2001) "A Manual of Linguistic Fieldwork and Structures of Indian Languages". Apart from them, for secondary source materials different books, study materials, journals, periodicals found in the University library have also been consulted. Moreover, various online articles, online books, journals, Google books, periodicals have also been consulted for the theoretical parts of this research work. Another method which is known as observation method was also adopted as a tool to collect the data and notice the language attitude of the speakers. Although this method is more subjective than objective, it also gives good impetus in the sociolinguistic study of any language. In this research observation method was used to reach into some conclusions.

All the analyses have been described on the basis of functional and structural paradigms of linguistic study. The data used in the analyses are obtained from the normal day to day conversations. Since, the investigator is a native speaker of the Assamese language, there was no need to use another language to interact with the informants. The informants were intentionally chosen from the young age group ranging from 16-30 years. Young speakers are said to be the vector of language change in all languages. Therefore, to have an understanding about the language attitude and other various sociolinguistic issues, the responses of young generation have been preferred so that we can have the assumptions through the lens of new generation.

One of the approaches that have been adopted in this study is descriptive approach. Unlike the traditional grammarians' approach, descriptive approach involves objective and non judgemental, clear description of languages. While analysing the data, this approach has been widely considered for this research.