Language contact in computer-mediated communication: Afrikaans-English code switching on internet relay chat (IRC)

  • KM van Gass Department of General Linguistics, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa


Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is a rapidly expanding field of research, conducted in a wide variety of disciplines, including linguistics. To date, however, the majority of research undertaken on CMC has focused on English and very little attention has been paid to CMC in languages other than English. The internet is no longer the monolingual, English-dominated space it was at its inception. It is now far more representative of the multilingual global world whose communication it facilitates, and this should be reflected by the research undertaken in this domain. There is, therefore, a growing need for sociolinguistic research on how people actually communicate on this ‘multilingual internet' (Danet & Herring, 2003). Against this background, this paper examines, from a sociolinguistic perspective, the characteristics of Afrikaans–English code switching on internet relay chat (IRC). IRC is a very popular system of CMC. Communication on IRC, although written, is largely synchronous, and as such has been compared with face-to-face communication. The data examined in this paper consist of logs of IRC interactions in public IRC channels on (the Stellenbosch University IRC server) and logs of interaction on local hubs in DC++ (a file-sharing application that allows for synchronous chatting).

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2008, 26(4): 429–444

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614