Code-switching between Thai and English in young Thai politicians’ speeches

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Kwanjira Chatpunnarangsee
Varisa Osatananda


Previous studies have indicated that politicians often employ code-switching as a linguistic device to foster solidarity with the public and garner voters’ support. In the Thai context, however, such devices as euphemism and hedging have been investigated, but not code-switching. In light of this lack of attention to code-switching in Thai political contexts, the Thai-English code-switching observed in the speeches of five young Thai politicians were analyzed in order to 1) examine the linguistic units of code-switching produced by the young Thai politicians in formal and informal speeches, and 2) investigate the strategies for which code-switching units have been employed. Data consisted of approximately two hours of formal and two hours of informal speeches by each person, 21 hours in total. The findings show that English nouns and noun phrases were the categories in which code-switching occurred most frequently. There was no major difference in the frequency of code-switching occurrences between formal and informal settings. Instead, the occurrence of Thai-English code-switching depended largely on the speakers’ topics, particularly those related to their experiences abroad and issues in science and technology. It was also found that the majority of the occurrences of code-switching were in the strategic categories of convenience, jargon/technical terms clarification, repetition-for-clarification, and quotations. It was concluded that the Thai politicians were well aware of their speech styles as well as the various backgrounds of their diverse audiences. By mixing English vocabulary into their public speeches, they could simultaneously cater to and impress audiences from different backgrounds.


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