Nicolai Boston Simonsen – University of Copenhagen

Danish voices > WILA8 2017 > Workshop programme > Nicolai Boston Simonsen

Insertional code-switching in North American Danish

Nicolai Boston Simonsen (University of Copenhagen)

For my MA-thesis, I performed an explorative examination of intrasentential morphologically integrated single word code-switching (cf. (1a & 1b), examples of insertional code-switching in terms of Muysken 2000) and bilingual composita (cf. 2a & 2b for examples), as well as single word insertional code-switching in the Corpus of North American Danish (CoNAmDa) (Kühl et al. forthc.).

a. Creek-en
”the creek”

b. turn-ede

a. blackbær

b. apartmentbygning*
“appartment building”

The sample of the CoNAmDa that my analyses are based on consists of 1305 instances of code-switching produced by 123 speakers (60 men, 63 women; age range 43–96) from the US and Canada. The analysis consisted of two parts. First, structural analysis, leading to a quantitative account of the code-switches occurring in the corpus with regard to their (token) distribution across word classes, derivational and inflectional morphology, and metalinguistic context. The code-switching data in the sample are distributed in accordance with traditional hierarchies of borrowing, in that the vast majority of the code-switching is done with content words – specifically nouns and verbs. In addition, there are more than double the instances of code-switching with nouns than with verbs. This is true for all the code-switching types accounted for in this study, except for single Danish words inserted into an English context.

The second part of the analysis consisted of a variationist sociolinguistic approach to the data. I compared and contrasted the linguistic variables that emerged from the structural analysis – distribution of code-switching type, word class, and metalinguistic context – with social factors (Gardner-Chloros 2010) – informants’ reported gender, place of birth, and where in North America they resided.

The study showed that the CoNAmDa-informants follow expected patterns for code-switching, and this is generally true across social groupings. However, informants born in the United States show different patterns of codeswitching. This difference, along with historical records, supports the notion that Danish was the subject of gradual language death.


  • Gardner-Chloros, Penelope (2010). Contact and code-switching. In Raymond Hickey (Ed.) The handbook of language contact. Malden u. a.: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 188–207.
  • Kühl, Karoline; Heegård Petersen, Jan; Hansen, Gert Foget; Gregersen, Frans (forthc.). ’CoAmDa. Et nyt dansk talesprogskorpus.’ Danske Talesprog.
  • Muysken, Pieter (2000). Bilingual speech. A typology of code-mixing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.