Code-switching in managing a face-threatening communicative task: Footing and ambiguity in conversational interaction in Taiwan

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This study investigates a Taiwanese bilingual speaker's code-switching practices in three telephone conversations that she initiates, all of which involve a common communicative task considered highly face-threatening for both parties in the context of contemporary Taiwan. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, this study suggests that different backgrounds of the conversation participants, such as generation and place of residence, may influence the initiator's pattern of code-switching. This study also illustrates that, while on the sequential level code-switching serves to organize the internal structure of the conversations, on the interactional level it can be used simultaneously with other linguistic strategies to negotiate interpersonal relationships in a face-threatening situation and is but one among a variety of resources circulating in the society available to bilingual speakers in performing various tasks in their daily interactions. This study further demonstrates how code-switching should be understood alongside notions such as footing (Goffman, 1981) and politeness (Brown and Levinson, 1987), arguing that an adequate study of interactional code-switching should be situated within a larger study of linguistic practices and social interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-392
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Feb 1



  • Code-switching
  • Face-threatening act
  • Footing
  • Mandarin
  • Politeness
  • Taiwan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

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