Code-Switching

Readings: Gene Wolfe, “Useful Phrases”; Ursula K. LeGuin, “Therolinguistics”

In linguistics, code-switching is switching between two or more languages, or language varieties, in the context of a single conversation.
More generally, code-switching is switching between two or more semiotic systems, in the context of a single conversation, text, or event.

Code-switching is also an excellent creative writing technique that can foster complicity, alienation, authority, and/or alterity, as the short stories by Wolfe and LeGuin demonstrate (Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is another fantastic example).  For this assignment, it is your task to use code switching to communicate a message.  You can make up your own prompt or you can use or adapt one of the following scenarios:

1.  A thief must communicate the details of a heist to another character over the telephone.  The challenge for the thief is that he or she knows that the phone call will be monitored and will thus need to speak in code to convey information.

2.  An adult must communicate to a child that a beloved person has passed away.  The child does not understand the concept of death, and the adult has to explain the concept without ever using the word.

3. An alien being from a planet that is made primarily of (water, ice, snow, grass, sand, clouds, pick your favorite element here) comes to earth and sees a (skyscraper, shopping mall, church, sports arena, or other example of human architecture) and must communicate what it sees to its home planet in a short letter.

Write for 15 minutes and post your reply in the reply box below.  You can work in a word file first so you don’t risk losing your work.  Once all the replies have been posted, read them and speculate on what each author has attempted to communicate.   We’ll discuss the outcomes as a class.

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