By Tucker Ives
NPR is launching a new race, ethnicity, and culture blog called “Code Switch.” You may have heard Colin McEnroe reference it during fundraising segments this morning.
The term “code-switching” is originally linguistic and it’s described as “mixing languages and speech patterns in conversation.” Here’s how NPR’s Gene Demby introduces readers to code-switching.
So why is this the name of a blog on race, ethnicity and culture?
We decided to call this team Code Switch because much of what we’ll be exploring are the different spaces we each inhabit and the tensions of trying to navigate between them. In one sense, code-switching is about dialogue that spans cultures. It evokes the conversation we want to have here.
This reminded me of a conversation we had on Where We Live back in 2010 with the great linguist, David Crystal. He joined us to talk about his book A Little Book of Language and we focused on the linguistic aspect of code-switching (although I don’t think we called it that).
Crystal has a very noticeable accent and John Dankosky asked him where it comes from:
Sounds a lot like code-switching, right? As you probably know, JD is a native of Pittsburgh and every now and then you can hear the accent. It is especially noticeable when he’s talking to someone else from Pittsburgh, like WNPR host Lucy Nalpathanchil:
This may not fit exactly into “code-switching” since both JD and Lucy are from Pittsburgh. But it is a very noticeable change in speech from how they normally talk today so hopefully it illustrates how our speech can change.
I’ll leave you with one last gem from David Crystal. He says people of every language engage in baby talk. Adults generally speak very differently to babies than they do with other adults.