Language Choice in Interracial Marriages
The Case of Filipino-Malaysian Couples
|University of Malaya
|Prof. Dr. Maya Khemlani David
|Ph.D. in Linguistics
Language choice has become a common phenomenon in interracial encounters in which speakers are always faced with the challenge of choosing an appropriate language in various domains of communication. In multilingual and multiracial societies, language choice can sometimes be crucial because of its social, political, and economic impact on the speakers. Even in the smallest unit of a society which is the family, language choice plays an important role particularly in interactions between husbands and wives who come from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. It is therefore the objective of this research to examine the language choice in interracial couples' communication. More specifically, this research examines the language choice, accommodation strategies, and code switching patterns in verbal communication of Filipino-Malaysian couples in the home domain. Furthermore, this study explores the occurrence of language choice in relation to ethnicity, first language, and gender. To carry out the study, 60 spouses consisting of Filipino-Malay, Filipino-Malaysian Chinese and Filipino-Malaysian Indian couples were interviewed and given questionnaires which include the socio demographic profile, language choice and accommodation strategies used. Data were collected using the qualitative approach by interviewing and recording the conversations of Filipino-Malaysian couples. To support the qualitative findings, a quantitative approach based on the questionnaire results was also used. The findings of the study reveal that Filipino-Malaysian couples prefer English as their medium of communication at home with some switching to Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Filipino languages. The couples' preference of English is prevalent although none of them considered English as their first language. Their mother tongue becomes the secondary preference which is evident in the use of code switching. The findings further reveal that couples' language choice is influenced by ethnicity, first language and gender. On the other hand, the use of accommodation strategies such as approximation, interpretability, discourse management and interpersonal control accommodation strategies occurs in many interactions. The findings of the study support Giles' and Powesland's (1978) Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) that in interracial couples' communication spouses tend to accommodate each other by using a range of accommodation strategies which include code switching.
Francisco Perlas Dumanig, Ph.D. is currently the Head of the English Department at UCSI University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He teaches Research Methodology, Sociolinguistics, World Englishes, and Functional Grammar. He holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He has published and presented various research articles in the Philippines, U.S.A, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand. His research interests are in language teaching, language choice, cross-cultural communication, world Englishes, and code-switching.