Language + Diversity = ?
英文怎么Write 这个Phrase? (How do you write this phrase in English?)
- [When] Do you ever find yourself ‘codeswitching’ (switching between languages)?
- What challenges do you face being part of multiple speech communities?
We asked these questions to see how linguistic diversity presents itself in multilingual speakers’ daily lives. Seven respondents described context-based methods of codeswitching; Jimmy uses his native language, Gujarati, when working out physics problems given in English, while Andrea code switches to understand abstract concepts that ‘makes more sense’ in her other language.
Being part of multiple speech communities has both personal and interpersonal challenges. For example, communicative competence: a measure for how effective someone is when communicating with others.  Trying to be communicatively effective in different language ‘landscapes’ is difficult. As many participants described, sometimes wires get crossed or meaning is misconstrued. 10 out of 12 participants described feelings of disconnect to one speech community after being immersed in another. This personal, internal attachment to language offers another strong point for linguistic diversity as it relates to multilingualism. For example, we can think about how multilingual individuals define ‘bilingualism’ as opposed to how the communities they are a part of define it. 
We asked ten artists about ways they alter language to better express themes important to them, and another set of questions about their use of grammar. Prescriptive rules of grammar are those which are accepted as the “correct” or “formal” way to write. Think “strict middle school English teacher” mentality. In contrast, descriptive rules are based on actual use of language, and are constantly changing from generation to generation. Because the language use of artists is as varied as the artists themselves, it was difficult to find a common thread. However, we found that it was always tailored towards their respective audiences. The ways these artists went about shifting their language use is where the linguistic diversity comes in.
Harsha is a rapper who seriously considers his audience when writing. He raps about what it’s like being raised in Calcutta and now living in the United States. He raps in Bengali and English, sometimes using both, but he doesn’t do this solely to establish a unique voice–his intentions behind which language to use are clear:
- “...I have family back home like aunts and uncles that don't listen to rap but they like this piece–it’s a piece in Bengali about what it's like being in the US. A lot of my family is bilingual so...it means something profoundly different when you’re rapping that in English versus when you’re rapping in Bengali...In Bengali, it's from an insider's perspective.”
In Varol Akman’s Rethinking Context as a Social Construct, it’s stated that “sociocultural context of utterances has been regarded as crucial to meaning (and action).”  Harsha uses sociocultural context to inform him of the best language to rap in at the moment. His use of codeswitching is motivated by his audience and how they understand the world around them.
Instead of using different languages to express ideas, some artists play with the spectrum of language formality. Scott is a musician who has been in the music and film industries for over 30 years. He believes that divergence from prescriptive rules helps him better communicate with his audience:
- “I diverge because I generally write on an accessible linguistic level...I think it’s a much better form of communicating emotion, except that it makes it a bit ‘of its time.’ So while I think I can reach more people with descriptive phrases, I feel like that's only going to be true for that generation. One goal of my work is to try to cross the generational line and use descriptive language that has survived.”
Scott “generally [tends] to conceptualize around current social issues.” He has found that expressing these themes, which may get complicated, is best done through accessible language. He tailors the formality or informality of his ideas to his audience. The reality is “descriptive rules allow for different varieties of a language” like slang, which gives artists like Scott more freedom to be authentic. 
Why Do We Care? Why Does Linguistic Diversity Matter?
 Myers-Scotton, C. (2013). Multiple voices: An introduction to bilingualism. Malden, Mass. : Blackwell.
 Akman, V. (2000). Rethinking context as a social construct. Journal of Pragmatics, 32, 743-759.
Mihaliäek, Vedrana, and Christin Wilson. Language Files: Materials for an Introduction to Language and Linguistics. Ohio State University Press, 2011.