It could be argued that it is people that come in contact but not languages;
but because of the vital role of language in such contact situations, the term
"language in contact" has been preferred. Languages influence each other when
they come in contact. The most noticeable influence is interference which
usually manifests in form of code-switching or code-mixing. For this reason,
this essay will attempt to differentiate both concepts and perhaps suggest the
reasons for their occurrences in speech.
There is no distinct difference between code-switching and code-mixing. Crystal
(1987) says that code-switching occurs when an individual who is bilingual
alternates between two languages during his or her speech with another bilingual
person. He goes further to explicate that the switch may take several forms such
as alteration of sentences and phrases from both languages succeeding each other
and switching in a long narrative. When an individual alternates different codes
in his or her utterances, we then talk of code-mixing. So we can say that
code-mixing happens as the result of code-switching. A speaker may start a
sentence in a particular language and then switches over to another language to
finish it, or use different codes for different words, phrases or clauses within
the same sentence.
Cook (1991) outlined the modes of switching as 84% for single
words, 10% for phrases and 6% at the clause level. From Cook's outline, we can
deduce that code-switching occurs most at the word level. Cook (1991:65) gives
the following sentence which is a switch from Russian to French to explain his
assertion further: "Chustvovali, chto le vin est tire et qu'il faut le boire"
which means "They felt that the wine is uncorked and it should be drunk." Dadzie
(2004: 151) also gives an example to show code-switching: "Se o ti ko essay ti
won fun wa?" which means "Have you written the essay given to us?" (Yoruba and
English). Code-switching could also be noticed in the next sentence which is a
switch from Ibibio to English: "Ami nyemme any problem." This means "I don't
want any problem."