Indexicalities in Code-Switching Practices across Namibian Ethnicities

Gerald Stell

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This study addresses the question of how multilectal behaviours can become stylistically functional. It proposes as a case study informal multilectal behaviours in Namibia, where indigenous languages co-exist with English and Afrikaans, the country’s lingua francas. The data involve informal intra-ethnic interactions featuring five Namibian ethnicities. A turn-by- turn analysis seeks to establish whether the participants’ code-switching patterns possess sequential salience and thus stylistic potential. Subsequently, an ethnographic perspective is taken to confirm whether this stylistic potential translates into sociolinguistic indexicalities. The study finds that—apart from white Namibians—the ethnolinguistic groups involved tend to display comparable interactional patterns of convergence/divergence in their code-switching behaviours, suggesting that the participants attach stylistic potential to code-switching. The ethnographic perspective links English to authority/worldliness, native languages to ingroupness, and L2 Afrikaans varieties to “street smart” attributes. Additionally, it shows that specific code-switching patterns are used as balancing acts between these values.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-28
Number of pages26
JournalLanguage Matters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • code-switching
  • indexicality
  • Namibia
  • sociolinguistics
  • style

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Indexicalities in Code-Switching Practices across Namibian Ethnicities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this