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Kathryn A.


Simultaneity and Bivalency as

Strategies in Bilingualism

Influenced by the work ofBakhtin, a sociolinguistics has begun to take shape

in recent years that takes multiplicity, hybridity, and simultaneity as key
concepts. Such a sociolinguistics should place bi- and multilingual speakers
and communities at its center, rather than in their traditional place at the
margins. Within the frame of a Bakhtinian concept of simultaneity in lan-
guage, this article reconsiders translingual phenomena of codeswitching and
so-called interference, and brings into focus a relatively understudied third
form, here called bivalency. It further considers the ambivalent and simulta-
neous messages that are communicated in linguistic contact zones, and
speakers' simultaneous claims to more than one social identity. There can be
analytical advantage in comparing the frequencies, functions, and relation-
ships of these different forms of simultaneity in different political economies
of language contact.

I n spite of long-standing protests from sociolinguists, bilingualism and

multilingualism traditionally have been cast not only in popular belief
but also in social and linguistic theoretical perspectives as anomalous,
marginal, and in need of explanation. Suzanne Romaine, in her book
Bilingualism, observed how odd it would be to encounter one entitled Monolin-
gualism, given the degree to which the monolingual is taken for granted as
the normal human condition (1989:1). Modern linguistics is an unlikely fish
to discover that water. The monolingual point of view has so dominated
the Western intellectual tradition that it has been invoked by minority-lan-
guage partisans, often themselves bilingual, in many language conflicts.
For example, the first director of language policy in newly autonomous

Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 8(l):3-29. Copyright 1999, American Anthropological

Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

Catalonia once informed me that bilingualism was perforce abnormal

"because a language is an instrument of communication, and with one,
In contrast, Mary Louise Pratt speculated several years ago (1991) on the
novel contributions that might be made by a linguistic theory that assumed
that the normative, the most revealing, speech situation takes place not in
a homogeneous monolingual speech community but in a multilingual "con-
tact zone." In such a zone, interactants would share only partially overlap-
ping linguistic repertoires.
In some respects, such a linguistic theory, or at least a sociolinguistic
theory, has begun to take shape in recent years, under the influence of post-
modem trends and, more importantly, of the writings of Mikhail Bakhtin.
Work in a number of fields, including linguistic anthropology, has focused
on phenomena of multiplicity, hybridity, and simultaneity in language and
speech (Duranti and Goodwin 1996; see Holquist 1990 for a discussion of
Bakhtin's emphasis on simultaneity). A sociolinguistics that takes multiplic-
ity and simultaneity as keys is arguably one that should place bilingual and
multilingual speakers and communities at its center, as prototypes rather
than exceptions. New insights could derive from such a shift in perspective.
Indeed, multilingual or polyglossic and macaronic literary forms were
central sites for Bakhtin's elucidation of his vision of language as "heteroglot
from top to bottom" (1981:281; see also Bakhtin 1984). The thoroughgoing
multiplicity and heterogeneity of language are the well-known hallmarks
of his theory of discourse. For Bakhtin, language is never really unitary but,
rather, lies in the intersection of multiple voices or speaking positions and
competing centrifugal and centripetal forces.
Much of the innovative impact of Bakhtin's conceptual system comes
from his rejection of binarism and the "dialectical either/or" (Holquist
1990:41) of structuralist understandings of paradigmatic relations. In their
place, Bakhtin sees in language forms a "both/and" that is "not a mere
wavering between two mutually exclusive possibilities" but a real simulta-
neity of contrasting elements in tension (1981:281). Within the overall con-
cern that Holquist dubs dialogism, Bakhtinian simultaneities in language
include: hybridity, "the mixing, within a single concrete utterance, of two
or more different linguistic consciousnesses" (1981:429); heteroglossia, "that
locus where centripetal and centrifugal forces collide,... that which system-
atic linguistics must always suppress" (1981:428); and polyglossia, "the si-
multaneous presence of two or more national languages interacting within
a single cultural system" (1981:431).
The widespread influence of these notions has helped bring bilingualism,
with all its hybridities, into a new research light. In this article I will discuss
several forms that multiplicity and simultaneity take in bilingual practice.
In doing so, I join and extend the ongoing effort of a number of researchers
in bilingualism to revise our understanding of the linguistic and social sig-
nificance of such practices. I also hope to suggest, albeit more sketchily, the
kind of insight such a new focus on bilingualism might bring to sociolin-
guistic analysis more generally.
Simultaneity and Bivalency

In accounts of language choice within the last several decades, an ex-

tended structuralist reading of the creation of social meaning out of contrast
between mutually exclusive elements in a paradigm (high language/low
language, we/they, ingroup/outgroup, etc.) had been fruitfully applied.
Bakhidnian approaches have now refreshed this thinking about bilingual
language practices such as codeswitching, borrowing, and ideological pur-
ism, as in the stimulating work of Jane Hill on Mexicano linguistic con-
sciousness (Hill 1985; Hill and Hill 1986) and of Ben Rampton (1995) on
linguistic "crossing" (see also Pujolar Cos 1995 and Tsitsipis rtd.). This turn
has helped move research beyond the limits that were becoming apparent
in the structuralist approach to bilingual distinction and contrast.
In particular, Bakhtinian skepticism about unitary language has encour-
aged researchers to problematize bounded, discrete languages, or "codes,"
assumptions that rather ironically underpinned much of the field of bilin-
gual studies. In their place are emerging more fluid visions of the linguistic
structures themselves and of their social significance as they are mobilized
by bilingual speakers (e.g., Auer 1998; Gal 1987; Milroy and Muysken 1995).
Activist bilingual writers, for example among U.S. Latinos (e.g., Anzaldua
1987), join such researchers in asserting that linguistic third ways are not
third rails, and they celebrate the minoritized social and linguistic forms
that are, as the poet Sandra Maria Esteves puts it, "not neither" (quoted in
Flores and Yudice 1990:60).
This refraining of bilingual phenomena, insisting that speakers do not
necessarily select between contrasting elements but, rather, can thrive in
their tense intersection, can be pursued to allow further challenges to tra-
ditional linguistic formulations. In particular, it offers a new perspective on
the customary interpretation of the structuralist distinction between the syn-
tagmatic and paradigmatic axes of linguistic relations. Saussurean structu-
ralism, as well as its extended sociolinguistic and social applications, treats
associative or paradigmatic relations as virtual, obtaining only in absentia,
in the difference of status between a term that is concretely present in an
utterance, on the one hand, and associated fields and chains of terms, on
the other handfields and chains that, although absent, fix the occurring
term's value. For Saussure, only syntagmatic relations hold in praesentia,
among elements concretely co-occurring in linear, sequential combination
(1983:122). Yet if we follow Bakhtin and if we treat bilingual phenomena
as prototypical, we may discern in single utterances the simultaneous and
equally concrete (or equally ephemeral) presence of more than one value
of a paradigmatic contrast. Contrast and opposition do not have to do all
their semantic work in absentia, through mutual exclusion.
Jacques Derrida has famously challenged structuralism's distinction be-
tween relations in praesentia and in absentia, critiquing what he sees as a
modernist metaphysics of presence. Through his idea of deferred meaning,
Derrida questions (mistakenly, some argue) any claims for linguistic (se-
mantic) presence at all, except as endlessly deferred, and insists on treating
"absent" signs as equally present through intertextual chains of signification.
Derrida's goal is to make what we understand by presence, especially Saus-
surean phonocentric presence, "enigmatic" (1974:70). He is less interested
Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

in breaking through particular limits of presence than in putting in doubt

the right to posit limits at all (Derrida 1981:130).
There is no doubt that the deconstructionist turn contributed to and en-
abled some of the newer views of hybridities and play in bilingual practice,
particularly in literary and cultural studies (see, for example, contributions
to Arteaga 1994). In considering how bilingual phenomena can help us re-
think simultaneity and presence, however, I do not have in mind Derrida's
insistence on a play of meaning between the putatively present and absent,
epitomized by his insistence on the importance of the "absent" term phar-
makos in Plato's Phaedrus (Derrida 1981). Rather, in reexamining bilingual
practices, I only intend to complicate the account of linguistic presence by
"installing" more potential in "the heart of the present," a tack that Derrida
dismisses as inadequate (1974:67). I identify opposed values as simultane-
ously and equally present in many bilingual phenomena. The main argu-
ment throughout this essay is that, in very specific ways, bilingual practice
can dismantle (but does not simply neutralize) binary distinctions, in this
case between language varieties, in "an undoing yet preserving of all op-
position" that "keeps alive an unresolved contradiction" (Spivak, in Derrida
1974:xx, 1).
These live, unresolved copresences I will refer to as simultaneities in bi-
lingual communication, linking back to Bakhtinian conceptualizations of si-
multaneities in language in use. In this article I consider five such aspects
of simultaneity in bilingual communication, which have been unevenly rec-
ognized and rarely theorized in relation to each other. I will address in
some detail three different kinds of simultaneity in linguistic form: (1) a
simultaneous membership of an element in more than one linguistic system,
a relatively overlooked relation that I refer to as bivalency; (2) so-called lin-
guistic interference; and (3) conversational codeswitching. I will then sketch
more briefly two kinds of simultaneity in communicative function: (4) mul-
tiple simultaneous social identities of a speaker, and (5) the simultaneous
messages of communication in the contact zone (and by extension, of course,
in almost any imaginable social zone of communication).
The canonical form of hybridity or simultaneity in bilingual communica-
tion, the one that has received by far the most attention from sociolinguists,
is conversational codeswitching. Gardner-Chloros (1995:68), however, has
warned that, although we have sometimes (self-)righteously succeeded in
shifting the research focus from monolingualism to bilingualism, analysts
have tended to replace the old orthodoxy of monolingual norms with a
new orthodoxy of codeswitching. Codeswitching is honored in sociolinguis-
tic analysis as a skilled and strategic performance that respects the discrete-
ness of languages and their hard-edged boundaries, in contradistinction to
the messy and aberrant chaos of interference and other interlingual phe-
nomena. Gardner-Chloros characterizes alternation between rigidly discrete
systems as a mythic ground of analysis that is as empirically and theoreti-
cally ill-founded as the idealized speaker/hearer. In agreement with this
critique, I will first explore some of the analytically marginalized forms of
simultaneity in what, in keeping with Bakhtin as well as larger trends in
Simultaneity and Bivalency

contemporary social analysis, might best be called translingualism (Ludi


Looking back at my own earlier analyses of codeswitching between Cata-
lan and Castilian in professional comedians' performances in Barcelona
(Woolard 1987,1995a), I now see that I minimized other bilingual phenom-
ena. Pursuing the orthodoxy of codeswitching, I underplayed another form
of simultaneity that I will call bivalenqj. By bivalency I mean the use by a
bilingual of words or segments that could "belong" equally, descriptively
and even prescriptively, to both codes. Although such a phenomenon has
been noted before, it has been the focus of very little research attention to
date.2 Here I will sketch some examples of it in the Catalan and other cases
and will suggest some analytic questions and significance.
Commenting on the tremendous popularity in 1980 of a Catalan come-
dian named Eugenio, people often said that the funny thing was that "you
can't tell what language he's speaking." Largely by privileging morphology
and lexicon, I was able to calculate counts that showed "objectively" that
one could indeed tell. By these measures, Castilian was clearly the dominant,
matrix language in Eugenio's performances, despite the perception of ram-
pant language mixing (Woolard 1987). This was not an entirely wrong-
headed exercise in ignoring community members' own insights. (I found
that Spanish speakers with no exposure to Catalan, and with demonstrated
inability to comprehend it, could understand most of Eugenio's perform-
ance; so my classification of his discourse as primarily Castilian was not
groundless or irrelevant.) Nonetheless, bivalency and interference (to be dis-
cussed in the next section) may actually have contributed at least as much
as, if not more than, codeswitching to the popular effect of Eugenio's style.
An example of what I mean by bivalency is the verb form saben in the
formulaic introduction to most of Eugenio's jokes: "El saben aquel..." (Do
you know the one ...). After this opener, Eugenio would routinely pause
for, and get, a laugh. The catch phrase so epitomized Eugenio's style that
it was taken as the title of his second commercial cassette. In this phrase,
the first element (el) is clearly Catalan, and the third element (aquel) is clearly
Castilian. The verb saben is bivalent, ambiguously Catalan or Castilian, dif-
ferentiated in the two languages only by the quality of the second vowel,
which is a relatively closed mid-front vowel / e / in Castilian and is reduced
to schwa in Barcelona Catalan. (The occurrence of schwa is phonologically
conditioned in Catalan and does not contrast phonemically with either / e /
or /e/.) Eugenio's vowel quality varied in different tokens of the phrase,
rarely making it all the way to the fronting and closure of the [e] of Castilian,
placing the lexeme plausibly, though not perfectly, in either system, except
under the most exigent standards.3 In any case, the word starts as utterly
bivalent and can be oriented toward a particular linguistic system in the
final syllable.
In my earlier analyses I noted that Catalan and Castilian are such closely
related languages, with so many lexical and structural similarities, that it is
Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

very possible to know that a definite codeswitch has occurred even when
we are unable to say at what point it occurred. That is the case in the brief
example of "el saben aquel." Although I have acknowledged this phenome-
non, I have previously tended to think of it as a kind of methodological
inconvenience, an impediment to a definitive analysis of codeswitehing,
rather than in itself a possible locus of sociolinguistic meaning. In those
earlier analyses I counted bivalent elements as a separate category but then
usually dropped them out of the account, which stressed comparisons of
amounts of Catalan and Castilian. (Other researchers who have encountered
bivalency have tended to the same practice.) Where in the early work I
focused on the copresence of the el and the aquel, I am now interested in
the mobilization of saben.
In the everyday Barcelona of 1980, bilinguals felt that they had to know
what language a person was speaking, in order to know in what language
to respond. Otherwise, as in the Montreal described by Heller (1982) and
as I found in response to my own imperfect language practices, a conver-
sation might clank to a halt and to an explicit query about language choice
and even identity. Hank Johnston quotes this view of the two languages in
Barcelona, as expressed by an immigrant-origin union organizer:

There is the problem of culture and of language.... [L]ook, I'm a Catalan speaker,
or I speak Castilian. It's not that they can complement each other. It's not a com-
plement, it's an alternative. You can't speak Catalan and Castilian mixed up. One
is Catalan, one is Castilian. [Johnston 1991:113-114]

Eugenio's syncretic and bivalent language practices challenged this com-

monsense vision of the language situation of his time. Such a professional
assault on the increasingly tense linguistic status quo was welcomed by
delighted audiences during the political transition to Catalonian autonomy
in 1980. In the period since then, catalanizing language policies have been
put into effect with greater or less success in various public domains. At
the same time, other comic performers have elaborated on Eugenio's mac-
aronic style. Ambiguous and bivalent elements, particularly as fulcrums for
codeswitches, are now even more liberally larded throughout professional
comedy in Barcelona.
Here are four short examples from the improvisational comedy of radio
personality Pere Bemal, recorded in 1987. All but the first of these occurred
within just a few minutes of talk. In the examples, plain text indicates Cata-
lan (CT), bold text indicates Castilian (CS), underlining indicates bivalent
speech, and italics indicate integrated borrowing.

(1) Bueno, va. Pasa. pasa.. .la primera, eu [laugh]

'Ok, go. go on. go on.. .the first, uh [laugh]'

All of the lexical items in Example 1 are very similar in the two languages,
varying only in vowel closure or reduction, and in velarization of the lateral.
(Bueno, when pronounced buenu, is a well-established if roundly criticized
borrowing from CS, phonologically adapted in CT.) Vowel reduction and
Simultaneity and Bivalency

even phonemic distinctions between open and closed vowels are in flux in
Catalan-speaking territories, so they are not clear, unambiguous flags of
language affiliation to all listeners (Lopez de Castillo 1976; Prats et al.
1991:71). In this example, Pere passes from a clearly CS version of "Bueno"
to a fairly clearly CT pronunciation of "la primera," with velarization and
significant vowel reduction, passing through the utterly bivalent territory
of "va" and the virtually bivalent "pasa/passa." In this last, again, only final
vowel reduction distinguishes the CS and CT forms, and there is plenty of
such reduction in Barcelona CS. (There is also a variety of CT heavily repre-
sented among young people, known as xava, in which the unstressed vowel
is perceived by most commentators as / a / rather than as reduced, although
a recent phonetic study shows that it is not actually a full Castilian [a] [Pla
(2) li vem preguntar, die, perdoni, escolti, que saben si tiene para mucho?
'We asked him, I say, excuse me, listen, do you know if you have much
more [to do]?'

(3) C6mo que autopista? Quina autopista?

'What do you mean expressway? What expressway?'

(4) Pero si arriba als puestos Ricki. i ya vay viene el camarero y le deja
la botella.
'But he gets to the places, Ricki. and then goesand the waiter comes
and leaves him the bottle.'

These examples give some idea of the form of bivalent elements in this
performer's speech, and of their incidence in the interstices of codeswitches.
In all of them, it is again only the final unstressed vowel, if any segment at
all, that allows diagnosis of the linguistic valence of the lexemes in question,
indicated here by underlining.
Bivalency is not unique to the relationship between Catalan and Castilian.
A number of researchers have discussed bivalent elements in contact be-
tween cognate languages, such as the Romance family (Ludi 1993:519). It is
frequent in Creole situations, as a discussion of orthographic conventions
for Creoles on the LingAnth listserv in fall 1996 demonstrated (and see
Crowley 1990:18; Gardner-Chloros 1995:77; Sebba and Wootton 1998). How-
ever, researchers have rarely tried to move these ambiguous elements to
the center of inquiry. Most often in studies of bilingual discourse, once these
elements have been acknowledged, they drop out of the analytic account.
Therefore, while I can inventory examples in others' research, I can say little
about their social and discursive use. At best, bivalent segments have been
studied as triggers to the conventionally more interesting phenomenon of
codeswitching, as in Clyne's (1967) influential work. Their presence in bi-
linguals' discourse generally has not been seen as itself equally meriting
analysis as a socially meaningful, potentially strategic form of language
choice, which is what I am proposing.
Among the few to attend to bivalency as significant in itself is Celso
Alvarez-Caccamo (1990,1998), in his research in Galicia, another minoritized
10 Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

linguistic region of the Spanish state. For example, Alvarez-Caccamo finds

that at specific points in a televised interview of a sports federation official,
exactly what language the interviewee is speaking cannot be determined,
because of the similarity of Galician and Spanish (1990:9). Alvarez-Caccamo
views this as a strategy that allows the speaker to present himself simulta-
neously both as an official and as a down-to-earth "Galician guy" (1990:8).
Some excellent examples of the deployment of bivalency come from Marc
Shell's (1993) study of bilingual public and commercial signage in Quebec.
Observing that there are some 8,000 words in Canadian French and English
that are alike, at least in written form, Shell documents bivalent elements
that he calls "FrAnglais mediators" in bilingual advertising. The ortho-
graphic, if not phonetic, similarity between French and English is exploited
not only in signs such as "Telephone" and "Service" (1993:51), but also in
more complex formulations such as "Universite McGill University," the
wonderful "Excellent Canadian Cuisine Canadienne Par Excellence," and
"Uniform Boutique d'Uniformes." In these last three, the bivalent elements
(a proper name and two loanwords here) play a graphically central and
double linguistic role. These elements are not either French or English (a sin-
gle selection from a paradigmatic set), nor neither French nor English (neu-
tralization of the paradigmatic contrast), but rather both French and English
(copresence of paradigmatic opposites in a single element). Taking biva-
lency to another level in linguistic organization is the ice dispensing ma-
chine labeled as follows:

in which the grapheme "C" plays the role of the bivalent hinge that inte-
grates the co-occurrence and contrast of the two languages (Shell 1993:
Bilingualor perhaps better termed, interlingualpuns form a special
category of bivalency, in which there is identity in form (phonological or
orthographic) but incongruity in the significance of the sign in the two lan-
guages. Heller (1994) has documented the use of this strategy of "speaking
both languages at once" among students in francophone schools in Ontario.
Students play with bilingual puns to juxtapose the languages that are usu-
ally constructed socially as mutually exclusive, and die humorous move
provides a release from the tension of the sociolinguistic opposition
(1994:167). A particularly complex example is the kindergartner who reveled
in his own rendering of "Je m'en fiche" ("I don't care") as "Je m'en pois-
sone!", by route of "Je m'en fish" (1994:167).
Other researchers have documented the frequency of bivalent elements
in bilinguals' speech, though they have not all treated them as strategic, as
in my own and the Canadian examples discussed above. For example, Er-
rington (1998) finds considerable use of bivalent elements in his analysis of
syncretic Indonesian-Javanese discourse. In an interaction that a participant
qualified as feeling "very Javanese," Errington counted 91 bivalent tokens
along with 135 Indonesian and 210 Javanese (1998:109,113).4
Simultaneity and Bivalency

Gumperz (1982:85) observed that phrases in Delhi Hindi and Delhi Pun-
jabi as spoken by college students could appear indistinguishable phoneti-
cally and almost identical in both syntax and lexicon. Gumperz's interest,
however, lay in understanding how users keep the languages distinct in
such a case, rather than the complementary question of how they might
rhetorically exploit the bivalencies, which is my concern here.
It is not surprising that bivalent elements might occur frequently and
even give rise to strategic uses when languages are very closely related.
However, even in languages that do not have so many cognates, a kind of
bivalency can still have important effects. Clyne found that English and
German words "with some morphemic correspondence" formed an "over-
lapping area" and could act as triggers to actual codeswitches among Ger-
man immigrants in Australia, for example, cafe, in, feter/fatter (1967:94). In
Clyne's analysis, even borrowed words could constitute such an overlap-
ping area, which, in his psycholinguistic interpretation, could cause a
speaker to lose linguistic bearings and momentarily forget which language
he or she is speaking (1967:85). Clyne cites a 1964 study by Stolt of Martin
Luther's German-Latin bilingual writings as demonstrating that in a "lin-
guistically neutral zone" of words common to German and Latin, Luther
lost his linguistic bearings and switched languages (1967:17). Muysken simi-
larly reports that bivalent elements in Dutch and English are particularly
vulnerable to codeswitching that violates Poplack's (1982) grammatical
equivalence constraint (personal communication, 1990).
Liidi reports on a Swiss francophone who acquired German as a second
language as an adult. Interviewed by a German speaker, the francophone
used French versions of words, without exception only when these closely
resembled their German correspondents: collegues-Kollegen, Hollande-Holland,
telephone-Telefon, comique-Komisch, welsce-Wekch, accent-Akzent. In the narro
range of shared territory between the two languages, the speaker produced
reminders of the translingual situation. Cautiously, Liidi considers several
competing explanations of the pattern, as more or less conscious and as an
aspect of a learner's interlanguage system versus a discursive strategy
(1987:9). The important point for the present discussion is that Liidi brings
the use of bivalent terms into focus as worthy in its own right of explanation.
Giacalone Ramat (1995:59) characterizes these elements shared by lan-
guage systems as neutral or neutralized sites. Gardner-Chloros writes relat-
edly of a "lowering of mental barriers" where oppositions between the two
languages are not relevant (1995:71). "Neutral" and "bivalent" are subtly
but crucially different social readings of this kind of translingual simulta-
neity. For me to insist that the distinction between the two linguistic systems
is still in operation may seem like a return to precisely the rigid standard
language ideology that these authors call into question. However, in settings
such as Catalonia, Canada, and Galicia, where the political economy of lan-
guages is the focus of ideological controversy, I believe that it is better to
think of such elements not as neutral but as bivalent. The opposition be-
tween linguistic codes is almost always socially and ideologically activated
in these situations, even as it is challenged.
12 Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

Here lies the parallel to Derrida's insistence on the double but unmixed
participation of seemingly contradictory meanings of a single term, such as
"cure" and "poison" in Plato's pharmahon. like the "ambivalent" pharmakon,
the strategically deployed bilingual bivalent element constitutes "the me-
dium in which opposites are opposed.. .that links them among themselves"
(Derrida 1981:127). Communication between two opposing values is both
interrupted and restored in the speaker's play within a single sign (1981:98).
In Gumperz and Wilson's (1971) classic analysis of linguistic convergence
in India, speakers were seen as exploiting differences in the morphological
systems so that they could be construed as speaking different language
varieties, even though syntax had come to be shared and morpheme-for-
morpheme equivalence between languages in the repertoire had been
achieved through convergent language change. In contrast, in the Catalan
cases I have analyzed to date, the performers seem to be doing the reverse:
drawing on similarities to inhibit definition of the variety they are using.
This is not, however, so much a suppression as an exploitation of the op-
position of Catalan and Castilian. The social tension between the two lan-
guages is essential to the success of the performances as comic. In a much
more literal sense than I realized earlier, Eugenio and his professional prog-
eny may be speaking the still distinct and increasingly competing Catalan
and Castilian languages at the same time, and profiting comically from the
social absurdity of such simultaneity.

Ideological Controversies over Bivalency

It is fairly obvious that areas of overlap that can be considered bivalent
exist in a number of bilingual situations. It may be less obvious that we
should think of bivalence as a linguistic resource that is strategically mar-
shaled and rhetorically manipulated by speakers. One important reason for
positing that uses can be strategic is the ideological salience and volatility
of bivalency. In the Catalan case, the normative status of bivalent elements
has been central in many debates over standardization since the late 19th
century. For example, bivalency figured importantly in a particularly bitter
struggle in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Barcelona which petered out
without resolution. That debate was referred to with considerable irony as
the battle between "el catala light" and "el catala heavy." I will describe it
only briefly here in order to show the ideological freight carried by biva-
The so-called Catalan Lights are mass media journalists and copyeditors
who use democratic and populist arguments to defend a standard Catalan
that reflects the spoken variety allegedly most common in Barcelona. They
claim their struggle is against a rigid, archaic, and elitist "essentialism" that
treats language only as a nationalist symbol, which they personifyor even
demonizein the leadership of the Catalan language academy, the Institute
of Catalan Studies (Pericay and Toutain 1986:13, 25). Their opponents, the
"Heavies," focus their polemics almost entirely on the "light" acceptance
of Castilian linguistic influence, and sometimes cast the lights as allies of
"Espanyol" political domination. For both Heavies and lights, the debate
Simultaneity and Bivalency 13

has an utterly transparent political meaning. It is not just about language

purity and politics, but about nationalist (and socialist centralist, or conser-
vative) politics. It is also absolutely clear to all contenders and observers
that this is a largely intergenerational struggle over not just linguistic forms,
but also control of institutional resources. They need no social scientist to
discover for them the interested nature of the philological debate.
Both sides claim to be concerned about distortion of the Catalan language
because of its contact with Castilian, and this is where bivalency becomes
the central issue in the debate. Each of the camps accuses the other of reshap-
ing Catalan through the eyes of the dominant Castilian linguistic system.
For lights, linguistic elites have systematically suppressed forms that are
really Catalan but that are similar to Castilian forms. They identify contem-
porary Heavies with the 19th-century position that advocated the Eastern
Catalan dialect as a modem literary standard because it was the "dialecte
mes fort, mes caracteristic, mes oposat al castella" ('the dialect that was
strongest, most characteristic, and most opposed to Castilian/) (L'Aveng 1892,
quoted in Pericay and Toutain 1986:27, emphasis added).
The Lights accuse the Catalan linguistic establishment of suppressing
good Catalan forms because they are bivalent and "podia sonar una mica
castellana" ('they might sound a bit Castilian') (Pericay and Toutain
1986:46). Ordinary speakers become convinced that the bivalent forms used
more often in everyday speech are incorrect, because of the privileging of
their more distinctive synonyms. Examples of the forms allegedly purged
from Catalan literature are given in Table 1 (based on Pericay and Toutain
1986:25, 80). According to die leading Lights, the abhorrence of bivalency
not only drives out genuine Catalan currency but, pursued to extreme ends,
actually contributes to calquing from Castilian:

"Proper," com que sona molt catala, resulta preferible a qualsevol altra soludo
fins en els casos en que es clarament un calc del castella: el proper dijous (el
proximo jueves). En catala sempre s'ha dit dijous que ve, dijous vinent.. .etc.
[Pericay and Toutain 1986:87]
"Proper" [next], since it sounds very Catalan, becomes preferable to any other so-
lution even in cases in which it is clearly a caique on Castilian: next Thursday. In
Catalan, one has always said "the Thursday that is coming up/' "the coming
Thursday".. .etc.

The avoidance of bivalency occurs in spoken as well as literary form. One

of the most radical Lights, Ivan Tubau, comments on the anti-bivalent ani-
mus of many of the guests and spectators of a celebrity interview show he
hosted in Catalan, El divan d'lvan, on the Catalan circuit of TVE in 1988-39.
Tubau claims that bivalency-phobes hyper-catalanized the title to "el diva"
and even his name to "Iva," allegedly because of their fear of the ending
"-an," "que els sonava castellana" ('which sounded Castilian to them')
(based on the regular relation of CT final -a to CS final -an, as in "catala"
versus "Catalan") (1990:17).
Critics of the Lights discount the democratic frame invoked and focus on
the status of castilianisms, seeing an antinationalist castilianization and
14 Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

Table 1
Contested Catalan/Castilian bivalent terms (based on Pericay and Toutain
1986:25, 80)

cs CT Light CT Heavy gloss

firmar finnar signar to sign
faltar faltar mancar to lack
buscar buscar cercar to search for
brindar brindar trincar to toast
ultimo, -a ultim, -a darrer, -a last
evidente evident pales, -esa evident
barco barco vaixell ship

impoverishment of Catalan in the light standard. The principal Heavies

argue that since the Baroque period, literary Catalan has drawn on Castilian
as a resource for modernity and distinction. They criticize some literary
forms of Catalan specifically because they are wholly bivalent "Es va arribar
a l'extreme d'escriure textos que es poguessin llegir indistintament en catala
o en castella segons l'accent que hi posava el lector" ('It came to the extreme
of writing texts that could be read indiscriminately either in Catalan or
Castilian, depending on the accent the reader put on them') (Prats et aL
1991:68-69). This tendency to bivalency has been called both the degradation
and galleguitzacio ('galicianization') of Catalan (Prats et al. 1991). This shows
that the situation that Alvarez-Caccamo has identified in Galicia is precisely
what the Heavies most fear.
In such a context, bivalency does not go unnoticed, but rather is politi-
cized and controversial. Given this, it is useful to consider well-received
and increasingly frequent public occurrences of bivalency as strategic as-
pects of performance where oppositions are played upon, rather than as
neutral sites that indicate a relaxation of contrasts, a lowering of the guard.
Such potentially strategic uses of bivalency merit the same kind of analytic
attention that we have given to codeswitching.

The second kind of simultaneity in bilingual discourse that was slighted
in my earlier analysis of Catalan comedy, as mentioned above, is that most
often traditionally termed "interference." By interference, I mean what
Haugen calls "interference in the strict sense" (in contrast to Weinreich's
[1974] very broad use of the term), a linguistic overlap arising from language
contact, in which "two systems are simultaneously applied to a linguistic
item" (1956:50). The term has an implicit prescriptive bias, and the accretion
of negative connotations has led to the substitution of other terms such as
transference) and cross-linguistic or interlingual influence (see discussions in
Milroy and Muysken 1995; Romaine 1989:50-52). However, for the purposes
of this discussion, these other terms are equally unsatisfactory because of
the breadth of phenomena to which they have been applied. So, while
Simultaneity and Bivalency

acknowledging its deficiencies, I will retain Haugen's early term along with
his definition.
In interference phenomena, any given level of linguistic organization may
draw on two languages at the same time; for example, phonetic and
phonological patterns from a substrate language may appear in the acous-
tical realizations of a second one. Or, as in linguistic convergence as de-
scribed by Gumperz and Wilson (1971), one subsystem may come primarily
from one language, other subsystems from another. For example, the mor-
phological form of a word may "belong" to one normative linguistic system,
while the semantic value may have shifted to reflect "interference" from a
Interference has often been treated by researchers as well as members of
speech communities as aberrant, leading many sociolinguists to avoid the
topic as contaminated by prescriptive valorizations. However, a frame that
places hybridity and simultaneity at the center may help us theorize the
ambiguities of interference rather than avoid it. Codeswitching, bivalency,
and interference are subtly different ways of choosing both languages at
once; arguably, interference is more a way of not choosing at all. More than
the phenomena I have discussed as bivalency, interference is an active form
of syncretism, as Hill and Hill (1986) argue, invoking Kurylowicz's (1964)
definition of syncretism as "the suppression of a relevant opposition under
certain determined conditions" (Hill and Hill 1986:57).
Precisely because interference phenomena are not readily segmentable, it
is easy (at least in my linguistic ideology) to underrepresent their effects on
the question of what language a person is speaking. like bivalency, a Cata-
lan "accent" in Eugenio's phonological and prosodic patterns, as well as
semantic and syntactic interference, may have had as much to do with the
perception of his speech as mixed as did his codeswitching, but my earlier
analyses did not take these into account.
An example that incorporates both bivalency and interference is an
Eugenio punch line that contains the phrase "Estabas/estaves a Igualada"
CYou were in Igualada'). All three words (one of them the name of a Catalan
city) are bivalent and could appear in the standard form of either language
(CS: Estabas; CT: Estaves). However, the phrase itself is not syntactically
standard in either language, and this form would not often be encountered
in either the Catalan or Castilian of Barcelona (CS: Estabas en Igualada; CT:
Eres a Igualada). The two languages differ in rules for use of the verbs ser
versus estar and also for the prepositions a versus en. Although all the lexical
elements could belong to either system, whichever language we assign the
phrase to, we will find apparent interference from the other.
Alvarez-Cccamo again reports related phenomena in Galicia. He argues
that one can "speak Galician in Spanish" by combining vernacular Galician
prosody with standard Spanish lexicon and syntax (1990:10). The Catalan
and Galician examples are reminiscent of Bakhtin's intentional bilingual hy-
brid, as he identified it in medieval Latin parodic literature. Though the text
was mostly in Latin, it was "structured and perceived in light of another
language," in forms that allowed the accents and syntactic forms of the vulgar
language to be sensed in the parody (Bakhtin 1981:75). Alvarez-Caccamo
16 Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

argues that in studying the bilingual repertoire, we should not separate the
prosodic from more traditional areas of inquiry. I have similarly discovered
that if we focus on one of the traditional areas of linguistic inquiry (lexicon,
syntax, morphology, phonology) more than others in order to eliminate
ambiguity from the categorization of bilingual speech, we beg the most
important question. The deployment of interference is another form of bi-
lingual hybridity or simultaneity that can be a resource for creating sociol-
inguistic meaning.

We can now return to the form of bilingual hybridity that has been given
the most analytic attention. Although definitions abound, conversational
codeswitching is generally understood as the "juxtaposition within the same
speech exchange of passages of speech belonging to two different gram-
matical systems" (Gumperz 1982:59).
In a seminal study that has proved to be enduringly stimulating and
influential, if sometimes controverted (see Auer 1984b; Maehlum 1996; My-
ers-Scotton 1993), Blom and Gumperz (1972) distinguish two kinds of code-
switching: the situational and the metaphorical. The situational codeswitch
creates a genuinely sequential relation between two systems in a linguistic
repertoire, and between two corresponding social situations. In situational
switching, "alternation between varieties redefines a situation," from one
communicative context to another (Blom and Gumperz 1972:409). (In a
slightly different set of distinctions, Myers-Scotton calls this "sequential un-
marked codeswitching" [1993:114-115.)
In the interpretation of codeswitching as metaphorical, on the other hand,
the sequential alternation of codes is treated analytically as a virtual form
of simultaneity, as if its sequentiality owed primarily to the limitations of
the linear speech signal, as Saussure described it.6 In the metaphorical
switch, analysts see linguistic alternation not as changing but as enriching
a situation (Blom and Gumperz 1972:409). Linguistic alternation invokes a
contextual frame that acts as an adjunct to the frame indexed by the first
code, not simply as a replacement for it (Rampton 1995:278). The cooperative
and initiated listener is understood to read the sequencing of different mes-
sage forms as a figurative simultaneity of social message. Trying to infer
the significance of the utterance, hearers attend simultaneously to two in-
terpretive contexts (e.g., in the classic Norwegian case, the local and the
Sequential alternation between codes is thus interpreted by various ana-
lysts as allowing a speaker to invoke a dual relationship or dual set of role
obligations, or to create, invoke, or strategically maintain ambiguity between
two possible identities (Blom and Gumperz 1972; Heller 1988b; Myers-Scot-
ton 1993). In Myers-Scotton's terms, "Codeswitching itself becomes [the]
unmarked choice for making salient simultaneously two or more positively
valued identities" (1993:122). Accounting for the occurrence or non-occurrenoe
of codeswitching then becomes a question of accounting for what social
Simultaneity and Bivalency

identities are simultaneously inhabitable, a question that will be taken up

Metaphorical codeswitching can then be read as a form of poetic language
which projects the principle of equivalence (of the two linguistically indexed
worlds) from the axis of selection into the axis of sequential combination
(Jakobson 1960). Rampton reminds us that metaphorical codeswitching
functions as does metaphor more generally, in that it is understood as a
kind of "double vision/' an "interaction between co-present thoughts/' or
a "transaction between contexts" (1995:278).
Given this figuring of virtual simultaneity, "switching" is not actually the
best of metaphors for metaphorical code choices. Goffman (1981) proposed
the concept of "footing," defined as the alignment that speakers take up in
relation to self, audience, and their own words, to encompass metaphorical
switching. However, most of Goffman's discussion in that classic work is
about sequences of footings and the liminal phases between them, rather
than the kind of simultaneity that Gumperz, Myers-Scotton, Rampton, and
others are trying to capture in their varying ways. Goffman himself char-
acterized most of his discussion of changes in footing as providing too me-
chanical and sequential a view of a more complex phenomenon: "In talk,
it seems routine that, while firmly standing on two feet, we jump up and
down on another" (1981:155). The analytic concept of metaphorical switch-
ing is meant to suggest this simultaneity of standing and jumping. Bakhtin's
translinguistic concept of "double voicing," the various hybrid forms in
which an utterance can mix more than one linguistic consciousness, may
be more evocative of this kind of simultaneity in codeswitching. It has been
exploited well for that purpose by analysts such as Hill (1985) and Rampton
(1995) (see also Woolard 1995a).
Sometimes, however, a sequence is just a sequence. Goffman's metaphor
of shifts of footing lends itself well to the genuinely sequential acts that can
be found not only in situational switching but also within a single speech
situation as approached in the conversation-analytic tradition of sequential
analysis (Auer 1984a, 1984b, 1995). In such cases, the linearity of codeswitch-
ing is not simply the result of the linear constraint of temporal speech. It is
not read as simultaneity, but rather as a shift in stance, temporary or not.
For example, sequence rather than simultaneity might be a more appropriate
reading when interactional repairs, or different parts of a narrative structure,
are signaled by a codeswitch (Auer 1995; Woolard 1987). Myers-Scotton
interprets even a speaker's codeswitch to mitigate a request (generally con-
sidered metaphorical in the Gumperzian interpretive perspective) as the
unmarked invocation of a sequence of roles for a speaker, not as a simul-
taneity of two roles.
These examples are taken from a long-standing debate about how best
to characterize conversational codeswitching. There is reasonable evidence
that both sequence-oriented and simultaneity-simulating codeswitching do
actually occur, but the question is how to differentiate them. In inter-
preting talk, do listeners make situated distinctions between sequential al-
ternationa speaker shirting from foot to footand virtual simultane-
ity*he speaker jumping up and down on a third foot? Can analysts do
18 Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

so? Myers-Scotton (1993) asserts that there are different structural charac-
teristics associated with the two functions, with "unmarked" (simultaneous)
codeswitching more typically intrasentential, and "sequential unmarked"
switching more often restricted to the intersentential. J. C P. Auer, taking
another tack, argues that if standard techniques of conversation analysis are
brought to bear, we will see that participants display in the course of con-
versation their own readings of codeswitching as what I am calling simul-
taneous or sequential.
Raising the distinction between the two readings of codeswitching as se-
quential or simultaneous, and calling into question speakers' recognition of
such a distinction, can be useful for characterizing differences or changes
in specific political economies of language. The emergence of a distinction
between these two interpretations, where none existed before, is an aspect
of sociolinguistic change in contemporary, politically autonomous Catalonia.
Traditionally, Catalan bilinguals often engaged in conversational code-
switching between Catalan and Castilian, but it was predominantly cued
by the ethnolinguistic identity of the interlocutor (Woolard 1989). Code-
switching was thus almost always used and taken as a sequential act, in-
dexing a sequence of orientations to different addressees. At the time po-
litical autonomy was granted in 1979, Catalan bilinguals rarely read
codeswitching as metaphorical simultaneity, an invocation of dual perspec-
tives or identities.
Since then, a number of new language policies and practices have been
established, and the relations between the two languages in the public
sphere have shifted. In response, at least some young people now read
simultaneity in some occasions of codeswitching. In my own research,
young Castilian mother-tongue teenagers who had become fluent in Catalan
sometimes engaged in what Myers-Scotton calls unmarked codeswitching
among themselves in public arenas where they could be overheard, simul-
taneously indexing their dual identities and relationships as Castilian-origin
Catalans. These young people's double-voicing of Catalan is what Bakhtin
dubbed "uni-directional," that is, they employ the Catalan voice positively,
"in the direction of its own particular aspirations" (1984:193, quoted in
Rampton 1995:223). Pujolar Cos (1995), on the other hand, gives examples
of both Catalan and Castilian mother-tongue youth who use ironizing and
parodic "vari-directional" double-voicing of the two languages, introducing
into "someone else's voice an intention directly opposed to fie original one"
(Bakhtin 1984:193, quoted in Rampton 1995:223). For example, speakers may
codeswitch from Castilian to Catalan to represent a weak, effeminate, or
dryly academic persona, and thus parodically comment on such a flaw in
their own interactional selves, or that of another.7
Metaphorical simultaneity, enabling double-voiced commentary, is even
more common in the mass media performances I collected in the late 1980s.
But those performances were vanguard instances of an emergent rather than
well-established communicative form in Barcelona. The unfamiliarityand
therefore the potential for confusionof metaphorical simultaneity is re-
vealed in the miscues that showed up in the radio program of Pere Bemal,
from which Examples 1-4 were taken. Pere, an established radio personality,
Simultaneity and Bivalency

had developed as his trademark a macaronic form of banter with a longtime

partner. Pere's numerous innovative codeswitching strategies included in-
tricate footing shifts, metaphorical messages, and especially parodic dou-
ble-voicing of both the Catalan and Castilian languages (Woolard 1995a).
For several weeks in 1987, a professional radio announcer, Santi Cardus,
was called in to substitute for Pere's ailing regular partner. In his early
weeks on the show, this radio professional revealed that he was a neophyte
in such comic banter, and he consistently failed to pick up rhetorical effects
from Pere's rampant codeswitching. Instead, he simply followed Pere from
one language to another, apparently taking each switch as a purely sequen-
tial change in the vehicular language of the conversation. Finally, in Exam-
ple 5, when Santi typically missed the censorious effect of a codeswitch to
Castilian and responded to it as a sequential change in conversational lan-
guage, Pere indicated that Santi had missed the point, before shrugging off
the topic.

P. Eh! Avui, avui, eh?
S. Avui agafare l'helicoptero. L'helicopter. Ho fare quan surt d'aqui.
P. ^Llegaras un poco mas pronto que esta manana, verdad? [sarcastic tone]
S. Si, lo intentare, pero salgo a las seis del Disco Ranking, eh?
P. Bueno, no, lo digo porque, eh* atencio, perque aquesta tarda, molta
atencio, publico habitual...

P. Hey! Today, today, eh?

S. Today I'll take the helicopter. The helicopter. I'll do it when it leaves
P. You'll get there a little earlier than this morning, right? [sarcastic tone]
S. Yes, I'll try, but I get out of Record Ranking at six, eh?
P. Well, no, I say that because, uh* attention, because this afternoon, full
attention, customary audience...

After a month of working with Pere, Santi was able to respond to the rhe-
torical message of metaphorical codeswitching and not treat it as a sequen-
tial shift in conversational medium. He even learned to use the metaphori-
cal potential of Castilian for getting tough himself:

P. Si, perd el Santi, n-nunca, no se que passa que nunca porta un duru. No?
S. Mira. Pedro, ^quien pago el ultimo dia en Masnou?

P. Yes, but Santi, n-never, I don't know what's wrong, but he never has a
dime. No?
S. Look. Peter, who paid the last time in Masnou?

This individual performer developed quickly under some pressure a

reading and use of codeswitching to index multiple interpretive frames si-
multaneously, to create tough nuances of bravado for a bourgeois Catalan
persona. That creative process is paralleled by a less advanced but emerging
practice in the larger population, particularly its younger sectors.
20 Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

Simultaneous Identities
The simultaneity of such conversational codeswitching lies, as noted ear-
lier, not just in the duality of linguistic forms but in its invocation of two
voices, role sets, relationships, or identities. The questions of whether, when,
and how codeswitching occurs in a given community, then, are partly ques-
tions about what kinds of identities are simultaneously inhabitable in that
community. (This is perhaps a different way of framing Gal's [1987] point
that the permissibility and form of codeswitching reveal a community's con-
sciousness of itself in a political-economic system.) Heller has argued that
for conversational codeswitching to be available as a discourse strategy,
individuals must have access to multiple roles and role relationships within
a given social domain (1988a:8).
We can say further that the multiple roles must not only be accessible
and inhabitable, but also desirable in participants' view of a particular situ-
ation (except where codeswitching is actually varidirectional crossing, as
mentioned earlier.) Myers-Scotton expects little unmarked interlanguage
switching in Quebec, Belgium, and Catalonia, where the languages are sym-
bols of contemporary intergroup competition or conflict (1993:128). Accord-
ing to Myers-Scotton, the incidence of unmarked codeswitching itself be-
comes an indicator of intergroup harmony or conflict. (However, the
experience and linguistic practices of U.S. Latinos might put that generali-
zation to the test; see, e.g., Urciuoli 1996.)
In the Catalan situation, I believe the social constraints on claims to si-
multaneous identities are changing. In the Barcelona of the Franco and post-
Franco transition eras, the Catalan and Castilian identitive positions were
often experienced as mutually exclusive and could rarely be invoked in the
same situation by a single speaker. Catalonia was at pains to distinguish
itself from the Castilian-dominated Spanish state. Many Catalans felt that
their language and distinctive identity were under threat not only from the
central state, but also from the overwhelming number of Castilian-speaking
immigrants from other parts of Spain. Although peaceful coexistence and
even collaborative efforts at rebuilding an autonomous Catalonia were
widely valued, considerable tension existed around questions of identity
and national and linguistic loyalties (see Woolard 1989). The Catalan and
Castilian languages were the principal criteria of ethnic identity, and the
Catalan and Castilian identities they signaled were not just distinct but op-
posed in many social settings. Correspondingly, as I have noted earlier,
codeswitching was not common among bilingual Catalans, except as a form
of accommodation to addressee (cf. Boix Fuster 1990,1993; Pujolar Cos 1991;
Tus6n 1990; Vila i Moreno n.d.). In mixed settings, bilinguals frequently
switched language to indicate addressee. Given this pattern, conversational
codeswitching was vulnerable to interpretation as a comment about the
speaker's or the addressee's identity and thus rarely occurred. Eugenio
could play with the linguistic boundaries of identity because of the public
rather than one-on-one nature of his performances, and because such play
with social tension and ambiguity was his job as a professional comedian.
Ordinary folks had less freedom to exploit the rhetorical possibilities.
Simultaneity and Bivalency

Now, under conditions of political autonomy, a relatively new ethnolin-

guistic identity has emerged in Catalonia, one that I call the "New Catalan"
(Woolard 1997). This is the identity enacted by some second-generation
Catalans of Castilian-speaking immigrant origins. Under the new language
and educational policies of autonomous Catalonia, they have acquired and
practice fluency in Catalan as a second language. These fluent bilinguals
may see themselves as Catalan, but they have not abandoned their identities
as Castilian-speakers, the way that earlier converts to Catalan tended to do
(see Woolard 1995b, 1997).8 Rather, both identities hold value for them and
are claimed publicly through language use, in a pattern similar to that de-
scribed by Myers-Scotton for some modem urban Africans. Conversational
codeswitching by New Catalans (and even their Catalan mother-tongue
friends) is possible and documented as more frequent than among the tra-
ditional Catalan-based bilinguals or traditional "converts" to Catalan iden-
tity (Boix Fuster 1990, Woolard 1995b, 1997).

Simultaneous Messages
Discourses in multilingual contact zones are "heterogeneous on the re-
ception end as well as the production end," and are "read very differently
by people in different positions in the contact zone" (Pratt 1991:36-37). This
is in fact one of the principal points that recommends such discourse for
professional performers like Eugenio and Pere Bemal. They can be taken
differently by Catalan and CastiJian members of the audience.
I am not being especially Derridean when I say that the simultaneous
use of more than one linguistic system in a multilingual zone can give rise
to fundamentally undecidable texts and messages. These messages (like all
others) can be undecidable because they are multifunctional, doing various
kinds of referential, expressive, and rhetorical work at one time. More rele-
vant to this discussion, they can also be undecidable because of the social
and linguistic positioning of participants. In the intentional stylistic hybrids
of bilinguals, there is an argument between languages (Bakhtin 1981:76).
Identifying a winner can depend on the linguistic and ideological position
of the audience.
Pratfs own example of heterogeneous messages is the 17th-century Pe-
ruvian chronicle of Guaman Porno, written in a mixture of Quechua and
non-standard Spanish, in text and captioned line drawings. Using both
European and Andean systems for making meaning, the chronicle neces-
sarily held different messages for bilingual speakers and monolinguals of
either language group, according to Pratt (1991).
Hewitt (1986) has made a similar point about the multiple meanings of
Creole-influenced English as used by young whites in London. Some whites
hear only one voice, unmarked, in such utterances, not noticing the Creole
origins of a linguistic form. Other whites hear an approving unidirectional
double voice, a white speaker attempting to accrue youth-cultural prestige
from the tough and trendy voice of Creole. Blacks, in contrast, are more
likely to hear the white voice speaking over or through the Creole form, in
a derisive varidirectional parody.
22 Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

For fluent bilinguals in contact zones, there can be an interaction effect

between the multifunctionality of any communication and the multiplicity
of speakers' sociolinguistic positions. Heller (1988b:92) gives the example of
a discussion she, an anglophone, had in French with a senior francophone
colleague. At one point the colleague used a mock-English accent in French
to produce a complaint about his own work. Heller reports that she was
unable to decide if she should assume an intergroup context, thus interpret-
ing the switch as parodying her own accent, or assume an ingroup academic
context, understanding the speaker to be using a metaphorical distancing
strategy to mock himself. As Bakhtin observed, theoretically it is possible
to recognize in any parody the "normal" language that is commenting on
the parodied style, but in practice it is far from easy (1981:76). As a fluent
bilingual, Heller did not know what "normal viewpoint" her interlocutor
assumed she would assume.
For the same reason, the meaning of the complex Saturday Night Live
television skit using Mock Spanish, so well captured by Hill (1995), seems
fundamentally undecidable. The skit depicts Anglo television news staffers
pronouncing Spanish-origin names and borrowings that have standard an-
glicizations in exaggerated, phony Spanish accents. The Latino actor Jimmy
Smits plays an English-speaking Latino professional who expresses increas-
ing consternation over the Anglos' hyper-Spanish pronunciations, and is
himself finally baited into a stereotypical Spanish-accented outburst
What is the meaning of this comic skit? Are the good-faith efforts of
Anglos who attempt to produce correct Spanish pronunciations being paro-
died by a rabidly monolingual English "normal" voice, or are patronizing
Anglo pretensions being parodied by a Latino voice, or is there another
meaning? Hill sees the skit as expressing the ambivalence Anglos feel about
Spanish and its speakers, and as ridiculing Anglos who attempt proper
Spanish pronunciations. However, Hill also reports that some Spanish-
speaking Americans hear the Smits character expressing their own negative
feelings about Anglo uses of Spanish and their resentment of demands to
play out a Chicano image to satisfy Anglos.
The Catalan comedians' virtuoso performances of linguistic mixing and
bivalency are similarly open to multiple interpretations depending on the
social positioning and ethnolinguistic identification of the audience, which
includes active bilinguals of both Catalan and Castilian background, passive
Castilian-based bilinguals, and monolingual Castilians. Some hear Pere Ber-
nal's macaronic comedy as a celebration of the prototypical Catalan. Others
take it to be based in an anti-Catalanist sensibility, and they hear the Pere
persona as a biting parody of the Catalan petit bourgeois. Yet a political
candidate from the conservative Catalan party that finds its support in the
Catalan petite bourgeoisie made multiple campaign appearances on the pro-
gram (see Woolard 1995a for a fuller discussion). Just as Bakhtin found it
very difficult to identify the normal language that provides the commentary
in a parody, so it is difficult to know whether it is a Castilian or a Catalan
voice that comments on bilingual Catalans who bring an impure linguistic
code to the public sphere. This is a double-edged satire, a purist mockery
of castilianized Catalan and a puncturing of Catalan pretensions to linguistic
Simultaneity and Bivalency 23

hegemony. The ironizing voice is ambiguous and the comedy is bivalent,

simultaneously heard differently by different segments of the audience.

The influences of Bakhtin and deconstruction have in recent years created
a new focus on hybridity, multiplicity, and simultaneity in communication.
This development has brought welcome opportunities for the study of bi-
lingualism, opportunities to both rethink our analyses of bilingual phenom-
ena and move bilingualism more to the center of sociolinguistic inquiry.
There is disagreement in the literature on bilingualism about how best
to approach the family of translinguistic markers that includes codeswitch-
ing, interference, borrowing, and what I have called bivalency. Some re-
searchers have argued that we need to break down the analytic barriers
and acknowledge that it is hard to tell them apart in practice because they
are not distinct objectively, only ideologically (Gardner-Chloros 1995:70).
Others insist that there are significant functional as well as formal distinc-
tions to be made between the clear-cut switches of codeswitching proper
and the gradual or ragged transitions in language that are characteristic of
what I have discussed as bivalency and interference (Auer 1995).
Both positions can be right. If the distinction is ideological, it can be as
much a part of speakers' ideology as of analysts', and so can affect their
linguistic practices. We do not have to insist on the naturalness of rigid
boundaries between languages in order to look at where and how speakers
erect and transgress these (Gal and Irvine 1995). Codeswitching, interfer-
ence, and bivalency are different formally, and it is of interest to discover
if they may also be different functionally. However, we will get more insight
into the working of each only if we examine how these different forms of
translinguistic simultaneity are used in relation to each other.
There can be theoretical advantage in comparing the frequencies, func-
tions, combinations, and relationships of these different forms of simulta-
neity in different contact zones. Only if codeswitching, interference, and
bivalency are put on an equal footing (so to speak) can we ask what speakers
accomplish through one form as compared to another. As I have tried to
indicate for the Catalan case, charting changes in the kinds of formal and
functional linguistic hybrids and simultaneities that are permissible and ex-
ploited can be a useful way to grasp the dimensions not just of sociolin-
guistic but also of social change. Moreover, the lessons about simultaneity
that can be learned from bilingual phenomena might suggest productive
revisions to (sodo)linguistic thinking more generally, wherever we tend to
assume that paradigmatic opposition and contrast can only be articulated
virtually, through mutual exclusion.

Acknowledgments. An earlier version of this article was presented in the invited
session "Simultaneity," at the 1996 annual meeting of the American Anthropologi-
cal Association (November, San Francisco). I am grateful to Sandro Duranti and
Chuck Goodwin, the session organizers, for stimulating my thinking on this topic.
24 Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

Some of the material included here was presented at the subsequent 1997 AAA an-
nual meeting (November, Washington, DC) in the session "Polyvalency," organ-
ized by Jon Pressman and Debra Spitulnik. Celso Alvarez-Caccamo, Susan DiGia-
como, Joe Errington, Rita Franceschini, Pieter Muysken, and Mark Sebba kindly
provided me comments as well as copies of forthcoming publications and work in
progress. Thanks to Emili Boix, Ignasi Clemente, Susan Gal, Monica Heller, Judy
Irvine, Lesley Milroy, Adela Ros, Michael Silverstein, and one JLA reviewer who re-
mains anonymous, for very helpful suggestions.
1. The director spoke as both professional linguist and partisan. Working within
the conflict perspective developed by Catalan sociolinguists as a critique of diglos-
sia, the director went on to argue that a community cannot simultaneously have two
languages on an equal footing: "Tambe es una equivocacio voler mantenir durant
molt de temps un bilinguisme permanent perque aixd, una Uengua es un instrument
de comunicacio, i amb un basta. I quan n'hi ha dos forcpsament la situacio es anor-
mal, eh?.. .o be t'ho has de repartir a base de convenis o sempre n'hi ha una que
queda per sobre de 1'altra" (interview, July 22,1980).
"It's also a mistake to want to maintain permanent bilingualism over a long time, be-
cause a language is an instrument of communication and with one, enough. And
when there are two, the situation is perforce abnormal, eh?.. .either you have to di-
vide them up by an accord or there will always be one on top of the other."
A Catalan sociolinguist (Emili Boix, personal communication, 1998), has noted that
this quote sounds "weird," given that this director defended official status for both
languages in the sociolinguistic debates in Catalonia. However, I believe that just
underlines the tenacity of the monolingual ideology.
2. Muysken (1990) refers in passing to such elements as "homophonous
diamorphs." Giacalone Ramat calls them "neutral sites" (1995:59). Both of these
authors are interested in these elements as points that create vulnerability to code-
switching proper. Franceschini (1997) discusses similar forms as "transition zones."
Haugen called these forms "interlingual identities" (1972:315). He represented these
as [+A, +B], where A and B are two languages in contact. This notation captures the
bivalent, as opposed to neutral, quality I am stressing. However, the examples that
Haugen discusses are more like faux amis, false or not-quite-cognates, than the se-
mantic identities found in Catalan and Castilian.
3. My comments on Eugenio's vowel quality are impressionistic, not based on
spectographic analysis. Emili Boix has pointed out to me that saben is not fully biva-
lent, because of the prescriptive difference in the second vowel. His comments sug-
gest that for many Barcelona speakers, the fronting and height of this vowel would
not reach Castilian prescriptive norms, although it would move away from schwa in
their Castilian version. It might be useful to play clips of Eugenio's different pronun-
ciations of this key word, varying the amount of linguistic context provided, and ask
Catalan listeners to diagnose the language affiliation of the utterance.
4. Errington (1998) observes that bilingual bivalency is paralleled by elements
that are congruent or undistinguished in the different Javanese speech styles. He
suggests that in the Javanese context, a monolingual phenomenon provides speak-
ers with a model for bilingual practice, which runs a bit counter to my suggestion
that the bilingual phenomenon can provide analysts with a generalizable model.
5. Saussure himself argued that it is an illusion to think of, for example, prosodic
stress and phonetics as a "number of significant features occurring simultaneously,"
as I am talking about linguistic subsystems here. For Saussure, there is only a single
act of phonation, and "there is no duality within this act, although there are various
contrasts with what precedes and follows" (1983:70).
Simultaneity and Bivalency

6. Although I use it in a different way than he did, I owe the term virtual simultane-
ity to Michael Silverstein (1996), who used it in his contribution to the 1996 sympo-
sium at which this paper was first presented.
7. Young people in earlier periods could play with and highlight ethnolinguistic
boundaries through what Rampton (1995) calls "crossing/' using linguistic forms
stereotypically associated with a group of which the speaker is clearly not a mem-
ber. For example, Calsamiglia and Tuson (1984) document a young Catalan who
sometimes affected an Andalusian-accented Castilian (e.g., Disc...) for jocular pur-
poses. Pujolar Cos (1995, 1997) shows that such practices of enacting personae
through what Giles (1973) calls a secondary linguistic repertoire are probably even
more frequent among young people in Barcelona now.
8. There had been such individuals in earlier periods, but since changes in educa-
tional language policy have become well established, I believe they are now found in
socially significant numbers. Many young people schooled under the new policies,
however, maintain their wholly Castilian orientation and do not make significant
social and identitive use of their school-acquired Catalan.

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