What is code switching and why does it occur?Applied linguistics

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No matter what language we speak, we all make adjustments to our speech, depending on audience and context.  Sometimes we are more formal, for example, speaking to professors or managers, but sometimes we are less formal, speaking to friends.  It is easy to confuse the function of "register" with that of "code" but they are not synonymous terms.  A linguistic code regulates the mode for effective message communication (code never embodies or generates meaning; it is regulatory) because different situations provide different vocabulary, different grammar, and different levels of formality.  A young person speaking to friends might use slang that is a form of code not used with older people. Code-switching is changing between various regulatory systems during one conversation.