CODE-SELECTION IN CHINESE/ENGLISH BILINGUAL COMMUNICATION
In a society where many members can speak more than one language,
communication in which two or more languages are alternatively used
is a common phenomenon. This language situation has been the subject
of considerable research in the past few decades, and studies using
different approaches have revealed various kinds of factors affecting
language alternation in bilingual communication, including linguistic
factors (Gumperz 1982; Pfaff 1976; Poplack 1980; Sankoffand Poplack
1981; Woolford 1983; etc.), sociological factors (Blom and Gumperz
1972; Ferguson 1959; Fishman 1972 1978; Fishman, Cooper and Ma 197
1; Scotten 1983; Scotten and Ury 1977; etc.), sociocultural factors
(Blom and Gumperz 1972; Ervin-Tripp 1964; Giles 1979; Zentella 1981;
etc.), pragmatic factors (Auer 1984 1988; Gumperz: 1982; Scotten 1988;
Vald6s 198 1; etc.), and environmental and psychological factors (Bentahila
1983; Brown and Fraser 1979; Pyrne1969; Genesee and Bourhis 1981;
Giles 1979; Lambert 1967;,Ryan and Giles 1982;.etc.). Although these
studies have made significant achievements, language alternation is
still a subject of much debate among researchers.
As a departure from the above work, this study takes a communication
approach that treats language alternation basically as a communication
phenomenon, functioning to establish relationships and transmit messages.
It uses a relational system to analyze Chinese/English bilingual communication
and provides its general modes of codeselection. It deals with code-selection
only in the initial conversation and not with code-shifting or code-switching
during the conversation.
DATA AND RESULTS
Data were collected during the one-year fieldwork (May 1991 - May
1992) in and out of Chinese communities in New York City, in which
lived a Chinese population of "about 30,000, with halfofthem
Bring in Chinatowns" (Xia 1992:202). They speak a variety of
Chinese dialects, I such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Min-nan, Wu, etc.
Although the exact number of the people of each dialect is unknown,
it is estimated that "71.5% of Chinese Americans speak Mandarin,
5% speak Cantonese, 4% speak Min-nan. Although many people speak other
dialects than Mandarin at home, most of them can speak Mandarin"
(World Journal May 15th 1992: 20). In Chinatown, Cantonese and Min-nan
are the dominant dialects. In other Chinese communities, Mandarin
is dominant over other dialects.
897 conversations were recorded by observation of and personal participation
in daily natural social interaction in a variety of societal domains,
including communication in the streets, stores, schools, offices,
public services, companies, parties, and homes, between strangers,
friends, colleagues and fellow workers, students and teachers, doctors
and patients, servicemen and customers, family members, etc. These
conversations ranged from the shortest consisting of only a few words
to the longest made of dozens of utterances.
Of the 897 conversations, there were 394 initial selections of English
and 503 initial selections of Chinese, which demonstrates a high frequency
in language alternation. The data show that these codeselections were
made in a close relation with the relationships of the communicators.
Table I describes this relation. It shows that English was selected
more frequently between non-intimates than Chinese, which was more
often used between intimates, and that the more intimate the relationships
were, the more frequently Chinese was selected.
METHODOLOGY: AN ANALYTIC SYSTEM OF RELATIONSHIP
There are certainly many ways to view the possible relationships that
can bring people into communicative interaction, and the nature of
these relationships can be defined within a variety of different perspecfives
and hence within a different system of interaction categories. As
some aspects of information processing are unique to bilingual communication,
I will, for my analytic purpose, define relationship in terms of three
dimensions: (1) ethnic backgrounds, (2) levels of intimacy, and (3)
roles. Each of these dimensions contains a dichotomy of relational
categories. The dimension of ethnic backgrounds has categories of
interethnic and intraethnic relationships; the dimension of levels
of intimacy has categories of intimate and non-intimate relationships;
and the dimension of roles has categories of long-term (L-Term) and
short-term (S-Term) relationships. These three dimensions together
with their six categories form a complete analytic system ofrelationship
Table 1 Relationships and Code-Selections in Chinese/English Bilingual
Diagram1. An Analytic System
of Relationship in Bilingual Communication
Diagram l illustrates
a descending order of level among these three dimensions. "Intraethnic"
and "interethnic" are the first level of bilingual communication,
under which different kinds of relationships are categorized: (1)
long-term intimate intraethnic, (2) short-term intimate intraethnic,
(3) long-term non-intimate intraethnic, (4) short-term non-intimate
intraethnic, (5) long-term intimate interethnic, (6) short-term intimate
interethnic, (7) long-term non-intimate interethnic, and (8) short-term
non-intimate interethnic. These kinds of relationships are finally
defined by the roles communicators play in their social interaction.
There are two kinds of roles in bilingual communication: social and
cultural roles. Social roles are those such as father, son, supervisor,
employee, doctor, patient, etc. Cultural or ethnic roles are those
such as Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Hispanic, American, etc. Among
the social roles, some relationships are longer-term and more intimate
than other relationships. For example, a father-son relationship is
longer-term and more intimate than adoctor-patient relationship. For
the cultural/ethnic roles, an intraethnic relationship is generally
more intimate than an interethnic relationship. The structural relations
among the three dimensions of relationship in bilingual communication
is, in this way, best represented by the interrelationship between
levels of intimacy and the other two dimensions, represented by the
two kinds of role-relationships respectively: the social and cultural/ethnic
Four levels of relationships are formed, based upon frequency of interaction
and levels of mutual knowledge.
(a) short-term non-intimate (SN): the lowest level of interactive
frequency and mutual knowledge;
(b) long-term non-intimate (LN): the lower level of interactive frequency
and mutual knowledge;
(c) short-term intimate (Sl): the higher level of interactive frequency
and mutual knowledge; and,
(d) long-term intimate (Ll): the highest level of interactive frequency
and mutual knowledge.
SN refers to a one-time-or-never communication relationship between
people with no prior communication. Communicators with this kind of
relationship are strangers, who meet for the first time and may or
may not meet again. This kind of communication usually takes place
in public domains, such as asking directions, shopping, first visits
to doctors and lawyers, first meetings at parties, etc. LN refers
to occasional communication relationships between people who have
a very short history of communication and know each other, but not
very well. Communication of this kind usually takes place between
people who have lived, studied, or worked together for a very short
period of time, or between people who have met several times at stores,
parties, doctors' and lawyers' offices, etc. SI refers to frequent
communication relationships between people who have a long history
of communication. Communication of this kind is usually found among
people who have lived, studied, or worked together for a rather long
period of time, or had frequent meetings at public services, and know
each other rather well. LI refers to extensive communication relationships
between people who have a very long history of communication and know
each other very well. Communication of this kind takes place among
family members, relatives, very good friends, colleagues of long standing,
lf we group (b) and (c) into the level of serni-intimacy, we get three
levels of intimacy on the following relationship continuum.
Graph 1. The Three Levels ofIntimacy ofthe Relationship Continuum.
(SI and LN)
These three levels of intimacy represent three developmental stages
of relationship in the process of communication: (1) non-intimacy
is the establishing stage, (2) semi-intimacy is the developing stage,
and (3) intimacy is the developed stage. Relationships develop from
the short-term non-intimate relationship (SN) through the long-term
nonintimate (LN) and the short-term intimate (SI) relationship to
the longterm intimate relationship (LI); or they may change the other
The data indicate that English is the most frequently selected in
non-intimate Chinese/English bilingual communication. Two characteristics
of non-intimate communication are important in determining this selection:
(1) there is no prior social interaction between communicators; and
(2) they have a formal relationship.
People who have no prior social interaction and engage in communication
for the first time know (almost) nothing about each other, including
their ethnic backgrounds and language proficiency. This implies that
their communication can be either interethnic or intraethnic, and
that the language used in the communication can be in-group or outgroup.
In such an ambiguous situation, in order to make communicabon possible,
people will select a language which can cover both possibilities,
a language that can be used in both intraethnic and interethnic communications.
In the United States, this language is English, a majority language
used in most social and cultural domains and between people with the
same and different ethnic groups.
People who have an initial social interaction also have, in most cases,
a formal relationship. In an environment where two languages are used,
people will select a language that can better establish this formal
relationship. In a multilingual society, different languages play
different social functions. Ferguson (1959) and later Fishman (1967;
1972) describe a language situation called diglossia, a situation
in which two languages (or two varieties of a language) have very
precise and distinct social functions. One language is learned largely
through formal education and used in formal situations like church
sermons, political speeches, university lectures, and news broadcasts,
and the other language is largely learned through informal channels
and used in informal situations, like instructions to servants, and
conversations with family members, friends and colleagues (see Ferguson
1972: 236). The former language is called H language and the latter,
L language. Situations in which H language is used usually involve
communicators with formal relationships, while situations in which
L language is used usually involve communicators with informal relationships.
In the United States, English as H language is used in most formal
communications, and other minority languages (L languages) are mostly
used in informal communications. Studies of language use in the United
States have shown that English is usually used in bilingual communication
involving non-intimate or less intimate formal relationships, while
other languages are more often used in bilingual communication involving
intimate or more intimateiformal relationships (see, among others,
Ervin-Tripp 1964; Fishman 1966; Flores and Hopper 1975; Haugen 1953;
Lance 1975; McClure 1977). The Chinese/English communication data
have the same results (see Table 1).
As Table 1 shows, Chinese is also used in non-intimate Chinese/ English
bilingual communication. Several reasons were found for this selection.
First, a low language proficiency in English will limit the possibility
to select it in communication. Of the 42 cases in which Chinese was
selected, there were 18 in which communicators had difficulty in using
English in communication. They spoke very little, broken English.
Second, kinds of communities
in which communication takes place will affect code-selection. Table
2 shows that Chinese is used more frequently in the Chinese communities
than in the non-Chinese communities. This is because of the function
of the Chinese communities in defining the ethnic and linguistic contexts
of communication. In the Chinese communities, most communicators are
Chinese and Chinese is the majority language, even though English
is the formal language. There is greater communicability by speaking
Chinese than by speaking English. By using Chinese one will meet less
difficulty in communication in a Chinese community than in a non-Chinese
Table2. Code-Selection in Non-Intimate Chinese Americans' Bilingual
Third, informal situations can redefine the formal relationships between
non-intimate communicators and reduce to some degree the formality
in initial social interaction, giving communicators more freedom in
selecting codes. Table 2 indicates that Chinese is used more often
in informal situations than in formal situations. This is because
in informal situations, communicators, though non-intimate, are less
controlled by situations and are thus less restricted by the mode
of code-selection required by non-intimate communication. In brief,
non-intimate communicators are freer in selecting a code in their
own communities and in informal situations than in other groups' communities
and in formal situations.
Fourth, the involvement of an intimate in the communication between
non-intimates can modify the non-intimate relationship between the
latter, leading to their selection of a more intimate code, Chinese.
This phenomenon is found common in introductory communication, in
which the code selected by the introducer often determines the code
selected by the introduced. The reasons for this are that (1) the
code selected by the introducer reveals information about the language
backgrounds of the introduced: it indicates that the introduced can
understand or may speak that code; (2) as the introduced are the intimates
ofthe introducer, they may know something about each other from the
latter; (3) as the communication between the introduced is initiated
by their intimate, the introducer, the mode ofcommunication is not
as formal as that between two complete non-intimates; and (4) as the
introduced are the introducer's intimates, they are psychologically
attached with a little, if not great, intimacy. In this way, the more
intimate code, Chinese, will be selected by the non-intimate introduced.
The two kinds of semi-intimate communicators - long-term nonintimate
(LN) and short-term intimate (Sl) - represent two phases of relational
development with the latter being more intimate than the former, and
as the Chinese/English communication data show (Table 3), their bilingual
communication indicates a general tendency towards an increased use
of the native language in communication.
Communicators in semi-intimate communication are in a stage of developing
relationships from less intimacy to more intimacy. To develop their
relationships, they need to use a language that marks more intimacy
than non-intimacy. As the native language of an ethnic group marks
an ingroup relationship, while the non-native language marks an outgroup
relationship, in ingroup communication the native language will mark
a more intimate relationship than the non-native language. Therefore,
the native language of an ethnic group plays a more important role
in developing relationships in intraethnic communication. By using
the native language in intraethnic communication, members of an ethnic
group can develop a less intimate relationship into a more intimate
one more effectively than by using a non-native language, that marks
a less intimate, intereffinic relationship.
Table3. Code-Selection in Chinese/English Bilingual Communication
between Serni-Intimate Chinese Americans Whose First Language was
The following factors were
found important in developing relationships and increasing the use
of Chinese. First, people who were socially equal would start to use
Chinese earlier than people who were socially unequal. This is because
the more equal the social relationship is, the shorter the social
distance will be, and the more social interaction results. Second,
people would start earlier to use more Chinese as a result of a faster
relational development in informal social interaction- at a party,
afamily gathering, atour, etc.- than in formal social interaction,
such as at a public meeting, lecture, and work. This is because informal
communication leads to more exchange ofpersonal information, speeding
up mutual understanding and knowledge. Finally, people would develop
a more intimate relationship faster with people who had the same geographic
backgrounds and would start to use Chinese earlier with them than
with the people who came from different places. Mainland Chinese have
a greater ease in developing an intimate relationship among themselves
than with Taiwanese. Both Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese have greater
difficulty in developing intimate relationships with Hong Kong Chinese
and American-bom Chinese. This is probably because Mainlanders share
more social and cultural traditions with Taiwanese than with Hong
Kong and American-born Chinese. Among Mainlanders, people from the
same locale would feel closer to each other than to people from different
locales. They would prefer to use local dialects in their communication
because of its more intimate nature.
English, however, was still used rather frequently in semi-intimate
communication, especially in LN communication. This is because semi-intimate
communication is still in a stage of developing relationships. Therefore,
communication, although not primarily, still marks the other "half'
of the semi-intimate relationship, i.e., the semi-non-intimate relationship.
To mark the semi-non-intimate relationship, communicators will select
a code that marks a more non-intimate relationship than an intimate
relationship. As discussed above, the non-native or the outgroup language
usually marks the former relationship and the native or the ingroup
language usually marks the latter relationship. Therefore, while usingthe
native language to develop their relationships, communicators still
use the non-native language to mark their not well-developed semiintimate
relationships, although not morethan that used in non-intimate communication.
Table 3 shows that English is more used in LN communication than in
SI communication. This is because the relationship involved in the
former is less developed and less intimate than that in the latter.
In LN communication, the relationship is rather formal and sometimes
socioculturally unequal, while in SI communication, the relationship
has been developed into a rather informal or socioculturally equal
one. With this development, English is used less and less than Chinese,
as the relationship develops more and more intimate.
In intimate communication, as relationships of communicators have
been well developed, communication functions primarily to transmit
messages. Code-selection will be mainly based upon the language proficiency
of communicators to transmit messages more efficiently.
Of the 454 conversations between intimate communicators, eleven patterns
are isolated, that indicate that language proficiency is important
in code-selection (Table 4).
4 Patterns of Code-Selection in Intimate Chinese/English Bilingual
* E=C: almost balanced English-Chinese bilinguals (the order ofthe
languages indicates the order of bilingual proficiency: the first
is the first language and the second, the second language). Bilinguals
of this kind have English as the first language and Chinese as the
second language but can speak and understand Chinese almost as well
C=E: almost balanced Chinese-English bilinguals. Bilinguals of this
kind can speak and understand English almost as well as Chinese.
I>C: imbalanced English-Chinese bilinguals. Bilinguals of this
kind have some difficulty in speaking or understanding Chinese.
C>E: imbalanced Chinese-English bilinguals. Bilinguals of this
kind have some difficulty in speaking or understanding English.
E>>C: extremely imbalancedEnglish-Chinese bilinguals. Bilinguals
of this kind have great difficulty in both speaking and understanding
C>>E: extremely imbalanced Chinese-English bilinguals. Bilinguals
of this kind have great difficulty in both speaking and understanding
+ E>C bilinguals speak English to C>E bilinguals, who speak
Chinese to the former.
++ E=C bilinguals speak English to C=E bilinguals, who speak Chinese
to the former.
Table 4 shows two general situations in intimate Chinese/English bilingual
communication: (1) if the first language of the communicators is the
same, that language is used (a-f); and (2) if the first languages
of the communicators are different, the mode of code-selection is
rather complicated. There are two possible ways: (a) each of the communicators
uses his/her own first language (i and j); and (b) one of the communicators
accommodates to the language of the other communicator(s) (g and h;
k involves both of the situations). These two possible ways are often
determined by the levels of language proficiency ofcommunicators.
From Pattern (a) through Pattern (d), the speaker and the listener
are identical in their language proficiency. In Patterns (a) and (c),
English is the first language for both the speaker and the listener;
and in Patterns (b) and (c), Chinese is the first language for both
the speaker and the listener. In Patterns (e) and (f), although the
speaker is different from the listener in his/her second language
proficiency, they share the same first language; so they select their
first language in communication. In Patterns (g) and (h), the speaker
and the listener differ in both the first and the second language;
they further differ in their second language proficiency: one is an
imbalanced bilingual and the other is an almost balanced bilingual.
Communication between bilinguals ofthis category will require that
the almost balanced bilingual accommodates to the language ofthe imbalanced
bilingual. Therefore, in (g), the C=E bilingual accommodate to the
E>C bilingual: English is used; and in (h), the situation is just
the other way round. In Patterns (i) and (j), the speaker and the
listener are different from each other in the first and the second
language, butthey share one thing, that is, either they are both imbalanced
bilinguals, or they are both almost balanced bilinguals. Therefore,
in terms oflanguage proficiency, they are equal. In (i), if the E>C
bilingual selects Chinese, the C>E bilingual's first language,
it will be easier for the latte rto decode messages, but it will be
difficult for the former to encode messages. If the E>C bilingual
selects English, it will be easier for him/her to encode messages
but it will be difficult for the C>E bilingual to decode messages.
It is the same with the C>E bilingual. So no matter which language
is selected, there will always be some difficulty for one or the other
of them. In this case, there will be almost no reason for them to
accommodate each other. Each selects his/her own first language, which
is at least faster and more accurate for the speaker to encode messages.
Encoding goes before decoding and the speaker supposes that the listener
can decode the messages. If the former finds that the latter cannot
decode the messages, he/she will, with some difficulty, switch to
the other language, the listener's first language; that is why there
is more frequent code-switching in (i) communication. In Pattern (j),
the reason for communicators to select their first language is almost
the same as that in Pattern (i): no matter which language is selected,
there will always be some difficulty for one of them, owing to the
difference between the first and the second languages. Moreover, since
both the speaker and the listener are almost balanced-bilinguals,
they are more proficient in using the second language in communication:
the listener has less difficulty in decoding messages in his/her second
language, so communication is more successful than communication of
Pattern (i) this is why there is less code-switching in (j) than in
(i). In Pattern (k), as one of the communicators has much difficulty
in his/her second language, s/he and other communicators have to select
his/her first language in communication.
To illustrate these patterns of code-selection, an examination of
communication in the family domain is necessary. Two situations of
code-selection were found in family communication: (1) all family
members use either Chinese or English in their communication; and
(2) some family members use Chinese and some use English in their
communication. For the first case, either Chinese or English is the
first language of all the family members. The situation in which Chinese
is the first language of all the family members and is used as their
medium of communication is found in most newly immigrant Chinese families
or families residing and working in Chinatowns, where daily communication
is conducted with Chinese as the main medium. The situation in which
English is the first language of all the familymembers and is used
as their medium ofcommunication is found mostly in second- or third-generation
Chinese American families, whose members were all born in America,
or in families in which childrenwere either born or raised in America
and in which first-generation Chinese-American parents have received
higher American education or work in places where English is the main
or the only communication medium. All the members of this kind of
family actually have acquired and use English as their first language.
The second case in which some family members use Chinese and some
use English in their communication is found common in families where
Chinese is the first language for some family members, and English,
for the others. The most common situationis as follows: parents are
first-generation Chinese Americans with Chinese as their first language,
and their American-born or American-raised children speak English
as their first language. Communication is conducted between parents
in Chinese, among children in English, and between parents and children
in their first languages respectively: parents speak Chinese to the
children, who respond in English.
This kind of language-crossing phenomenon is found most commonly in
families in which the parents' language proficiency in both Chinese
and English is almost balanced or their English is proficient enough
for them to understand it, though not good enough for them to speak
it. The reasons why parents with language proficiency almost balanced
in both Chinese and English do not speak English to their English-speaking
children are the following: (1) most of their daily communication
is conducted in Chinese; (2) the communicative habit of using Chinese
formed through past years of communication with their children makes
them feel very uncomfortable in changing to the use of English; and
(3) it is easier for them to encode in Chinese though they decode
well in English. Such language-crossing communication is conducted
often between very intimate communicators. It could arouse embarrassment
or annoyance when it takes place between less intimate communicators.
Some people complained that some Chinese children spoke English to
them even though they insisted on speaking Chinese to the children.
However, these same people found that itwas natural when their own
children spoke English to them while they replied in Chinese.
A kind of code-shifting phenomenon is found in Chinese family communication,
that results in a shifting in the above two patterns of family communication.
In intimate communication, the relationships of communicators are
well-developed and unmarked in communication, and the principal function
of communication is to transmit linguistic information. The first
language is the fastest and most accurate language to transmit linguistic
information. A speaker's first language can change during his/her
life. In a bilingual community where a mother tongue (L language)
is different from the language used in school and in most of other
societal domains (H language), the mother tongue is a child's first
language. However, when the child grows up and starts school, the
school language gradually becomes his/her first language, as it is
used most often and in most societal domains. This gradual change
of one's first language often results in a change in communicative
patterns of family communication. My observation shows that this change
occurs more frequently when children have studied in school for three
or four years. After three or fouryears' schooling, a child's ability
in English has become sufficient for daily communication and they
start to use it more than Chinese. This results in a shift in the
patterns of family communication. The former pattern with Chinese
as the main communicative medium for all the family members gives
way to a new pattern: children speak English (their first language)
to their parents who in turn speak Chinese (their first language)
to the children. This kind of language shiffing is possible when communication
takes place between intimates, such as family members, whose relationships
have been well-developed, and communication functions mainly to exchange
linguistic information. In this kind of linguistic-information-oriented
communication, communicators would use their first languages to exchange
messages in a more efficient way.
So far the parents we have looked at in the second case are either
almost balanced bilinguals or are good enough at understanding English.
In cases where their English language proficiency is not sufficient
for them to understand normal English communication, children have
to give up their own first language and accommodate their parents'
first language, Chinese. This phenomenon is found in almost all studied
families where parents are first-generation immigrants who speak little
English and where children are either born or raised in the United
States. If the children are proficient in their parents' first language,
communication can be conducted without much effort. If the children
are not proficient in the first language of their parents, communication
could be conducted in a difficult manner for both the children and
the parents. The former have to use a less proficient second language
to communicate, resulting in much delay and inaccuracy in both encoding
and decoding messages. The latter have difficulty too in decoding
the messages they are receiving and in getting across the messages
they are sending.
Cases are also found in which parents accommodate their children's
first language. This happens when the children are English-Chinese
bilinguals with low proficiency in Chinese. These children have acquired
English before they have had a good command of Chinese. In many cases
when communicating with their children, Chinese-English bilingual
parents find it very difficult to use Chinese to get across to their
children many things that the latter have never learned in Chinese.
In this case, the parents have to give up their first language, Chinese,
and accommodate their children's first language, English.
In sum, the patterns of code-selection in intimate communication are
generalized as follows: (1) When the first language of communicators
is identical, that language is readily used; (2) When the first languages
of communicators are not identical, each communicator may (a) use
his/her own first language or (b) accommodate the other's first language,
depending upon the language proficiency ofthe communicators. If the
communicators are almost balanced in both languages or their language
proficiency is sufficient for them to understand the second language,
type (a) happens. If a speaker is not an almost balanced bilingual
and his/her second language proficiency is not good enough for hinvber
to conduct normal communication, the other communicator(s) will accommodate
his/her first language.
SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION
The Chinese/English bilingual communication has demonstrated that
code-selection in bilingual communication is essentially based upon
relationships between communicators and their language proficiency.
The relationship between communicators is dynamic: it develops from
its initial defining stage through the intermediate developing stage
to its final developed stage. This dynamic nature of relationship
ascribes a dynamic nature of code-selection (Graph 2). In communication
between non-intimates, communicators know almost nothing about each
other, including ethnic backgrounds, language proficiency, etc., communication
is usually conducted in formal situations with an interethnic relationship,
and topics are most often non-intimate. Communication at this stage
is marked by its two fundamental functions: to transmit messages and
to establish relationships. At this stage, the majority or H language
is used, as it can best perform these two functions and mark an interethnic
relationship. As communication continues, communicators get to know
each other more and more, and their relationships develop from the
nonintimate stage to the semi-intimate stage. At this point, communication
is still marked by its two fundamental functions. At its early stage,
communication begins to involve some personal information, including
ethnic backgrounds, language proficiency, personal matters, etc.,
and the relationship gradually develops from an interethnic one into
an intraethnic one. To develop amore intimate intraethnic, socially
equal and informal relationship, communicators use a native language
more often in communication. As communicators enter the final stage
of relational development that is, the stage of the intimate relationship,
relationships between cominunicators have been well developed and
communication functions primarily to transmit messages. To transmit
messages in a more efficient way, communicators, depending upon their
language proficiency, will select a code that is better for encoding
and decoding messages.
Graph 2. Relationships and Code-Selection in Chinese Americans' Bilingual
Language proficiency will
make some adjustments to the above general modes ofcode-selection.
Lower language proficiency will limit the selection of the codes specified
in the above modes. Kinds of communities, native communities ornon-native
communities, situations, formal or informal, and involvements ofdifferent
relationships will also modify the above general modes of code-selection.
1. It is disputed whether all these local speeches are dialects or
languages. I use "dialect" as it is traditionally used by
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