Identity Construction through Code-Switching Practices at a University in Pakistan

Mujahid Shah, Stefanie Pillai, Malarvizhi Sinayah


Code-switching can be used to express and create different meanings and ideologies, as well as different identities. Speakers can choose various codes in their linguistic repertoires to do these things. In academic settings in Pakistan, English is likely to be used with Urdu and regional languages, such as Pashto, resulting in the expression and construction of different identities. In order to examine the link between code-switching and identity in a multilingual academic setting, this paper examines the construction of identity that emerges from code-switching practices among a group of lecturers and students at a university in Pakistan. Data were collected through recordings of interactions supplemented with semi-structured interviews, which were then ethnographically analysed from a micro-macro perspective. The findings revealed a seamless and dynamic use of code-switching, which was mainly in English and Pashto. The fluid nature of the code-switching makes it seem as if speakers have developed a different ‘language’ combining Pashto and English. Such use of code-switching reflects their socialisation in a multilingual and multicultural environment, which in turn, has led to the emergence of their hybrid identity orientations. The study contributes empirical evidence of the link between code-switching and hybrid identities in a multilingual context. The findings also imply that interactive practices should be examined from a dynamic micro-macro perspective because changes in the social environment can affect the thinking, perceptions, behaviours, and identity-orientations of the speakers.


code-switching; hybrid identity; Pakistan; Pashto; academic setting

Full Text:



Almutairi, A., Raihanah Mohd Mydin, & Ruzy Suliza Hashim (2019). Bicultural identity in Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk. GEMA Online® Journal of Language Studies. 19(3), 126-139.

Arnett, J. J. (2002). The psychology of globalization. American Psychologist. 57(10), 774.

Barnard, R. & McLellan, J. (2013). Code-switching in university English medium classes: Asian perspectives. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Braun, V. & Clark, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology. 3(2), 77-101.

Bucholtz, M. & Hall, K. (2005). Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies. 7(4-5), 585-614.

Bucholtz, M. & Hall, K. (2008). Finding identity: Theory and data. Multilingua: Journal of Cross-cultural and Interlanguage Communication. 27(1-2), 151-163.

Casas, M. P. (2008). Code-switching and identity among island Puerto Rican bilinguals. Unpublished Ph.D thesis, Georgetown University, Washington, USA.

Chang, Y. L. (2014). The construction of language value and legitimacy in aboriginal primary school classrooms in Taiwan. International Journal of Pedagogies and

Learning. 9(2), 183-192.

Debose, C. E. (1992). Codeswitching: Black English and Standard English in theAfrican-American linguistic repertoire. Journal of Multilingual & Multicultural

Development. 13(1-2), 157-167.

Gulzar, M. A. (2010). Classroom discourse in bilingual context: Effects of codeswitching on language learning in Pakistani TEFL classroom. Unpublished Ph.D thesis,

National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad, Pakistan.

Gumperz, J. J. (1982). Discourse Strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hall, K. & Nilep, C. (2015). Code-switching, identity, and globalization. In D. T. Heidi, E.Hamilton & D. Schiffrin, (Eds.). The Handbook of Discourse Analysis (2nd

ed.) (pp. 597-619). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Kebede, K. (2017). Twice-hyphenated: Transnational identity among second-generation Ethiopian-American professionals in Washington, DC, metropolitan area.

African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal. 10(3), 1-17.

Lamb, M. (2009). Situating the L2 self: Two Indonesian school learners of English. In Z. Dornyei & E. Ushioda, (Eds.).Motivation, Language Identity and the L2 Self

(pp. 229–247). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Mabule, D. R. (2015). What is this? Is it code switching, code mixing or language alternating? Journal of Educational and Social Research. 5(1), 339-349.

Mahboob, A. (2017). English medium instruction in higher education in Pakistan: Policies, perceptions, problems, and possibilities. In B. Fenton-Smith, P. Humphreys &

I. Walkinshaw, (Eds.).English Medium Instruction in Higher Education in Asia-Pacific: From Policy to Pedagogy (pp. 71-92). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Manan, S. A., David, M. K., Dumanig, F. P., &Channa, L. A. (2017). The glocalization of

English in the Pakistan linguistic landscape. World Englishes. 36(4), 645-665.

Manan, S. A., Dumanig, F. P., & David, M. K. (2017). The English-medium fever in Pakistan: Analyzing policy, perceptions and practices through additive bi/multilingual education lens. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 20(6), 736-752.

Martin, P. W. (2003). Bilingual encounters in the classroom. In J. M. Dewale, A. Housen & Li Wei, (Eds.).Bilingualism: Beyond Basic Principles (pp. 67-87). Clevedon:

Multilingual Matters.

Myers-Scotton, C. (1993). Social Motivations for Codeswitching: Evidence from Africa. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Norton, B. (2000). Identity and Language Learning: Gender, Ethnicity and Educational Change. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

Nur Syuhada Mohd Radzi, Bahiyah Dato’ Haji Abdul Hamid, & Kesumawati Abu Bakar (2018). Discursive construction of modern masculine identities in contemporary

Malaysia. GEMA Online® Journal of Language Studies. 18(3), 35-56.

O’Sullivan, P. B., Hunt, S. K., & Lippert, L. R. (2004). Mediated immediacy: A language of affiliation in a technological age. Journal of Language and Social Psychology.

(4), 464-490.

Poplack, S. (1980). Sometimes I’ll start a sentence in Spanish y terminoen español: Toward a typology of code-switching. Linguistics. 18(7-8), 581-618.

Pue, G. H., Ong, P. L., & Loo, H. C. (2019). Kelantan Peranakan Chinese language and marker of group identity. GEMA Online® Journal of Language Studies. 19(2),


Rosendal, T. (2017). Identity construction and norms of practice among bilingual Ngoni in rural Tanzania. Language Matters. 48(2), 3-24.

Saraswati, R., & Octavita, R. A. I. (2016). A study of English code-switching in Indonesian Teen Magazine. Deiksis. 8(01), 39-47

Shah, M., Pillai, S., & Sinayah, M. (2019). Translanguaging in an academic setting. Lingua. 225, 16-31.

Smirnova, A. &Iliev, R. (2016). Political and linguistic identities in an ethnic conflict. Journal of Language and Social Psychology. 36(2), 211-225.

Woolard, K. A. (1985). Language variation and cultural hegemony: Toward an integration of sociolinguistic and social theory. American Ethnologist. 12(4), 738-748.

Yim, O. & Clément, R. (2019). “You’re a Juksing”: Examining Cantonese–English code-switching as an index of identity. Journal of Language and Social Psychology.

(4), 479-495.



  • There are currently no refbacks.




eISSN : 2550-2131

ISSN : 1675-8021