What Do Bilinguals Do?
Code‐centric accounts of bilingualism obscure the processes whereby bilingual utterances acquire social significance by viewing them simply as admixtures of pre‐existing grammatical codes. This chapter proposes an alternative account: (1) Bilingual speakers produce speech tokens of varying degrees of fidelity to grammatical types (in matrix or source language) and, conversely, of varying degrees of type‐hybridity (blending category types across languages); and (2) speakers tend reflexively to re‐analyze degrees of fractional fit (of form tokens to types) as register contrasts among “social types” (types of person speaking, of activity or conduct performed through speech). Bilingual interaction thereby imposes a social‐characterological logic of register evaluation upon a logic of grammatical variation, producing contrastive models of person and activity type, some among which remain relevant only to the current interaction, while others become widely known (to bilinguals, or to monolinguals in one or the other language community) through forms of institutional dissemination.
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