Language Codeswitching (What’s greatest danger for Laz?)


[The article was written by Ckoni and publishe on Lazebura Forum.]

In this article we try to outline some aspects of Laz-to-Turkish codeswitching. We think that considering problems indicated below would be useful for Laz origin community of Turkey.

Codeswitching (CS) is commonly defined as the alternating use of two or more codes in the same conversational event. The term was first employed to refer to the coexistence of more than one structural system in the speech of one individual by Jakobson, Fant, and Halle (1952), who use "code" in the abstract information theoretical sense. In later writings, "code" has come to be synonymous with "language" or "speech variety." Recent research on CS falls within two distinct traditions: the syntactic, providing insights into the linguistic principles that underlie the form that CS takes; and the pragmatic that relates linguistic form to function in everyday discourse.

Interference may be viewed as the transference of elements of one language to another at various levels including phonological, grammatical, lexical and orthographical (Berthold, Mangubhai & Batorowicz, 1997). Berthold et al (1997) define phonological interference as items including foreign accent such as stress, rhyme, intonation and speech sounds from the first language influencing the second. Grammatical interference is defined as the first language influencing the second in terms of word order, use of pronouns and determinants, tense and mood. Interference at a lexical level provides for the borrowing of words from one language and converting them to sound more natural in another and orthographic interference includes the spelling of one language altering another. Given this definition of interference, codeswitching will now be defined and considered in terms of its relationship to this concept (Skiba R, 1997).

Codeswitching and Borrowing

The inclusion of one-word switches within her framework allows Myers-Scotton (1993) to posit a connection between codeswitching and borrowing. Codeswitched items are regarded as belonging to another language, so that someone who codeswitches has to have access to two linguistic systems (though this doesn’t imply they are equally competent in both languages). Borrowed items, on the other hand, are felt to have become part of the matrix language. All languages have borrowed terms [for example English has amateur from French; Swahili has baisikeli (bicycle) from English]. Terms such as baisikeli fill a gap in the matrix language, but languages also borrow when they have equivalent terms of their own (for instance, “town” in Swahili). Myers-Scotton argues that words such as baisikeli (she terms these “cultural borrowings”) enter the language abruptly as the need for them arises, whereas words like “town” (“core borrowings”) enter gradually, via codeswitching: they are subject to the same social motivations and grammatical constraints. As they become used more frequently, they are on their way to becoming borrowings, sometimes displacing original terms. There is, therefore, a continuum operating between codeswitching and borrowing, rather than a cut-and-dried distinction between two [Graddol, Leith & Swann, 1996].

Laz-to-Turkish Codeswitching

In Laz of Turkey there exists facts of phonological, grammatical and lexical codeswitching. Using examples we try to indicate danger Laz encounters.

Phonological type

In modern Laz there exists tendency of replacing natural Laz sounds with Turkish more familiar to speakers phonemes:

ch’ [Laz.] --- ch [Turk.] analogies. mtugi chopums instead of mtugi ch’opums [Kartozia, G. 1993].
3 [Laz.] --- s [Turk.]: e.g. mt’uri sxenepe instead of mt’uri 3xenepe [wild horses – source: ar t’ilifoni: zug’ash Berepe]. mt’uri itself is result of rather older phonological influence of non-native linguo-system. Comp. mtk’uri [Vitz.-Ark.-Hop.] which stems from ancient mt’quri* (wild). Compare also t’qari [Megr.] and t’qiuri [Geo.] – wild, which originate from t’qa [Megr.] and t’qe [Geo.] – forest. [Comp. Kutelia, N. 1986, Kartozia, G. 1993]. ok’oresxu – instead of ok’ore3xu [“ok’oresxu va mushk’un lazca” evidenced in 1992 – source: Kartozia, G. 1993]. We can indicate great mass of such examples, but that’s matter of future.

Phonetical influence of non-native language system has rather long history in Laz. Oldest q sound, which is preserved only in Hopa dialect of Laz language, in Vitze-Arkabe is either lost (q*>0), or it is replaced with k’ (q*>k’) phoneme. E.g. qvali* > kvali [cheese]; oqvilu* > okilu [to kill]; oqvapu* > ovapu [to be] etc. In Atina-Artasheni: q* > 0 or q* > y (e.g. qvali [Hop.] – k’vali [Ark.] – vali [Atn]; oqopumu [Hop.] – ovapu [Ark.] – oyapu [Atn] etc.)...[Comp. Machavariani, G. 1965; Kutelia, N. 1986; Topuria, V. 1926; Chikobava, Arn. 1936]

Grammatical type

The most characterizing feature of it is use of Turkish two element verbal constructions. But nevertheless there exists even grammar elements’ penetration with replacing original forms.

Verbal constructions:

yemini vikum [< yemin etmek: Turk.] – instead of gipuchum, gipucham [Laz] – I vow; opuchu – to vow; puchi – oath, vow
inkari vikum [< inkar etmek: Turk.] instead of movivar [Laz] – I deny; movaru – to deny
Word composition:

Here we can indicate one, newly discovered example of it

• dulyaartobani (from işbirlikçi: Turk) dulya [ish: Turk.] + art [bir: Turk.] + oba [lik: Turk.] + an [this suffix was understood as absolute equivalent of -chi||-ci: Turk.]. ishbirlig’i [collaboration] and ishbirlikchi [collaborator].

In addition here is absolutely ignored native Laz rule to derive profession-denoting and active voice participial forms using circumfixes [prefix-suffix composition – note: earlier same rule was used to produce origination-denoting forms as well. Such derivation is survived in some Laz, Megrelian and Georgian words. In Svan this rule (to produce origination-denoting terms) is in use actively till nowadays].

Examples of confixes: ma-...-e; ma-..-al-e (||-i), ma-...-ur, ma-...-er, m-...-u, m-...-al.

Examples of derivations: ma-inc’ir-e [one kind of bird; from inc’iri: elder (plant)]; ma-chxom-al-e [fisher – from chxomi: fish]; ma-lim-ur-i [warrior – lima: war]; ma-lim-er-i [warrior – lima: war]; ma-nz’ag-er-i [neighbour – zag-*: yard] m-k’od-u [builder – o-k’od-u: to build]; m-tkum-al-e [who told – tkum-||tkv-: to tell]...

Grammatical elements:

–lug’[<-lik: abstract terms’ producing suffix]. It is used in borrowed words, such as muslimanlug’i [–suz [<>exclusion producing suffix]: Resembles –lug’ [<-lik] case. e.g. igbalsuzi instead of uigbale [u-igbal-e] – unfortunate...

-ca||-ce [qualitative and qualitative-circumstantial terms producing suffix] is used in narrowed sutuation, to denote only language origin. Türkçe, Lazca, Gurcice (Gürcüce) --- Instead of Turkuli (Turkish) --- turkul-ot*||turkul-a* (in Turkish), Lazuri [Laz language] --- lazur-ot||lazur-a* [in Laz language], Gurculi [note: in Laz exists restored Zan variant of Kartuli, in form of Kortuli: Georgian language]. –ot||-a element is oldest sign of circumstantial case, which is survived in petrified form in some words till nowadays: arto||artot (arti - one) – together, lazebura (in Laz (language), Lazwise) < lazeburi (Lazish, Laz language). lazurot (from lazuri - Laz language) – in Laz (language). Losing circumstantial case in Laz: It is not excluded, that this fact appeared as a result of influence of Turkish... This archaic case is used actively as well as in Svan, so in Georgian and Megrelian

–inci [produces ordinal numbers]: This type was evidenced recently in word jurinci [jur+inci~ikinci – second: Turk.] instead of majura||majurani [second – Laz].

Lexical type:

This type is matter of lexicographic analysis. Huge mass of ancient Laz words is lost in modern Laz of Turkey. Fortunately considerable part of them is preserved in Laz villages of Georgia. In Laz There are also such words that are lost finally [are not evidenced any more]. Via comparative historical-linguistic analysis linguists can apprehend which possible variants would be real Laz equivalencies of still alive common lexical treasure of Kartvelian languages [through comparative analysis of Svan, Georgian and Megrelian to Laz]. In fact this issue is closely connected with word-derivation problems as well. Case of mapa, omapu and mapoba illustrates interesting possible approach how to restore ancient native words and constructions.

Nevertheless it would be interesting to show a few examples of codeswitching in corversation:

Examples [Source: Kartozia, G. 1993 – Texts written in 1990 and 1992]:
...lazui rak’amiti [ok’ore3xu] va michkin, ama [mara] on-sekiz [vit’ovro] 3’ana og’ine ma k’aset’is ebozdapidort’u...” [codeswitched items in bold]
dutxuri eskide [mcveshot] ... istambolishe mendaxtu... [mcveshot is survived in Laz of Turkey. It is one of those very words in which is preserved circumstantial case in petrified form. see above]
...chkuni p’ap’ulepe churuksude, potide, soxumde ulut’esdoe do balukchilug’i ikumt’es doe... [structural switchings are italicized. note: Laz, whose verbal folklore literally breathes with fishery uses “balukchilug’i” instead of name of core profession of Lazs machxomaloba||mechxomeoba: fishery]
Instead of Conclusion
Sometimes grotesque endeavors of some young Lazs with poor skills of Laz speech to use Turkish constructions and incorrect forms obstinately are greatest danger for Laz language [e.g. omapu – as verb “to be”, instead of real still alive forms: ovapu||oyapu||oqopumu [Laz] - to be]



1. Jakobson, R., G. M. Fant, and M. Halle – Preliminaries to Speech Analysis: The Distinctive Features and Their Correlates. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 1952
2. Skiba, R. – Code Switching as a Countenance of Language Interference: The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. III, No. 10, October 1997
3. Graddol, D., Leith, D. and Swann J. – English: history, diversity and change: London, Routledge 1996
4. Myers-Scotton, C. – Duelling Languages: Grammatical Structure in Codeswitching: Oxford, Clarendon 1993
5. Kartozia, G. – lazuri t’ekst’ebi [Laz texts]: Tbilisi 1993
6. Machavariani, G. – Common Kartvelian Consonant System: Tbilisi 1965
7. Topuria, V. – Phonetic Observations in Kartvelian Languages: Tifliss 1926
8. Chikobava, Arn. – Grammatical Analysis of Chan (Laz) Dialect with Chrestomathy: Tbilisi 1936
9. Kutelia, N. – Consonant Clusters in Chan (||Laz): Tbilisi, Annual of Ibero-Caucasian Linguistics XIII 1986


• For Codeswitching

• For Megrelian and Laz

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