An Analysis of the Patterns of Code Switching in the Namibian Parliament

An Analysis of the Patterns of Code Switching in the Namibian Parliament

Sussana Iipinge (University of Namibia, Namibia), Rewai Makamani (Namibia University of Science and Technology, Namibia) and Selma Ashikuti (University of Namibia, Namibia)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8094-2.ch008


This chapter examines patterns of code switching in the Namibian Parliament as represented in the volumes of parliamentary Hansards from 2015 to 2017. In this chapter, a sample of 10 issues of the Namibian parliamentary Hansards were selected. The selected Hansards constituted a representative purposive sample of the Hansards produced by the Parliament of the Republic of Namibia from 2015 to 2017. The selection of the Hansards to form part of the sample depended on the availability of hard copies of the selected issues. Using purposive sampling was important in choosing the right sample for the study as some Hansards had fewer instances of code switching than others. It was important to select those with high frequencies of code switching.
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Just like other African countries, Namibia is a multicultural society where different languages are spoken. According to Frydman (2011), “thirteen languages have been recognized as national languages, that is 10 indigenous African languages which are spoken by 87.8% of the population and 3 Indo-European languages spoken by 11.2% of the population” (p. 181). Brock-Utne opines that although this is the composition of languages spoken in Namibia, after independence, English which has a relatively small percentage of 0.8 first language speakers in Namibia was chosen as the official language which is used in public and official domains (as cited in Frydman, 2011). Frydman (2011) states that as the official language, English is the language of administration, government and national politics. Because of the linguistic diversity in Namibia, it is not surprising that code-switching constitutes a widespread practice among the population (Zӓhres, 2016). Code-switching is seen as a conventional method of communication in any bilingual or multilingual society (Myers- Scotton, 1993a).

Parliamentarians are part of the Namibian population and are therefore, either bilingual or multilingual hence, they engage in code-switching. Dzahene- Quarshie (2011) states that many Parliaments in Africa have adopted English only policies in their Parliaments whilst allowing the use of several indigenous languages for convenience sake due to the highly multilingual situation in which they find themselves and Namibia is no exception to such a linguistic situation.

The above has implications for code-switching in African parliamentarians as they seek to effectively communicate with target audiences. However, previous studies done in Namibia on code-switching by Kamati (2011), Simasiku (2014, 2016), and Aukongo (2015), only focused on other areas and not Parliament. This chapter reflects the need to fill this gap in order to find ways of contributing to ways in which parliamentary discourse can be more effective. It is interesting to see how this phenomenon of code switching occurs not only in daily informal conversations, but also in Parliament. As alluded to earlier, Parliament is a multilingual setting in which the parliamentarians speak different first languages and therefore code-switching affects effective communication amongst parliamentarians. So, it is important to investigate the circumstances under which parliamentarians codeswitch and establish possible reasons why they code-switch. This study therefore sought to investigate and analyse the different patterns of code-switching in the Namibian Parliament thereby contributing to the existing body of knowledge on code-switching in Namibia.

The study was guided by four research questions as follow:

  • 1.

    What are the possible reasons that influence the parliamentarians to code-switch?

  • 2.

    What patterns of code-switching are used in Parliament?

  • 3.

    What function does code-switching provide on the framing of parliamentary discourse?

  • 4.

    Why do parliamentarians codeswitch?

It was hoped that through asking such research questions the chapter would contribute to the field of code switching in Namibia, by focusing on the role of code-switching in the Namibian Parliament. This chapter might help in understanding why parliamentarians code-switch, by identifying the different patterns of code-switching that occur in Parliament. This research may further help generate discussions on the use of different languages in Parliament.

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