Informalization and Hybridization of Speech Practices

Polylingual Meaning-Making across Domains, Genres, and Media

by Amei Koll-Stobbe (Volume editor)
©2019 Edited Collection 266 Pages


Speech practices as discursive practices for meaning-making across domains, genres, and social groups is an under-researched, highly complex field of sociolinguistics. This field has gained momentum after innovative studies of adolescents and young adults with mixed ethnic and language backgrounds revealed that they «cross» language and dialectal or vernacular borders to construct their own hybrid discursive identities. The focus in this volume is on the diversity of emerging hybridizing speech practices through contact with English, predominantly in Europe. Contributions to this collected volume originate from the DFG funded conference on language contact in times of globalization (LCTG4) and from members of the editor’s funded research group «Discursive Multilingualism».

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Series editor’s foreword
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • A. Introduction
  • Informal expressive mode across genres, or non-linear processing skill? Discursive hybrids and meaning-making with English as a global resource
  • B. Early symptoms of hybridization: Lexical and constructional transfer in contact with Anglo-American speech practices
  • Anglicisms in German: Tsunami or trickle?
  • On schematic constructional copying: The case of French X slash Y
  • C. Linguistic hybridization as threat to cultural identity: The case of language policy in Poland, and a case of creolization of Australian indigenous languages
  • Language policy in Poland:
  • Language contact varieties in Aboriginal Australia: The case of Enindhilyakwa
  • D. Hybridization of denotational and associative discourse modes across genres, domains, and cultures: Three case studies on the informalization of interactive communication in virtual and real social spaces
  • Metaphor in doctor-patient online communication: Negotiating medical knowledge at the interface between specialist and non-specialist discourses
  • The Euro and Lithuania(ns) in their own eyes: The Russian past and the European future in online comments
  • Creative naming strategies of burger shops in Berlin:
  • E. Bilingual attention shifts: Fluid hybridity as cognitive skill in the interactive classroom
  • Heteroglossia in the classroom
  • Wanted alive, not dead: The case for metaphor in the classroom
  • List of figures
  • List of tables
  • Contributing authors

Amei Koll-Stobbe

Informal expressive mode across genres, or non-linear processing skill? Discursive hybrids and meaning-making with English as a global resource

Abstract: Contemporary social identities are hybrid and complex, and mobile social media play a crucial role in their construction. Speech practices mediate identities as discursive practices for meaning making. Across media diversity, domains of language use, and oral-to-written genres with their respective discourse modes document an informalization of sociocultural rites and speech practices (Mair 2006: 181 ff.) that reflects areal and social mobility, ongoing urbanization, and intra-cultural as well as inter-cultural contacts and conflicts (Fairclough 1992). Hybridization as a further consequence does have an impact on interactive discursive practices in a globalizing world that is multilingual, with varying access to repertoires of English. I argue that multilingual hybrids can function as expressive repertoires for social bonding and identity construction (cf. 1.), but that they can also reflect a bilingual cognitive skill to use languages as semantic resources for problem-solving, and an awareness of a complementary ludic discursive mode (cf. 2.). Hybridization – a programmatic concept used across the natural sciences and the humanities (cf. 3.) – might be a diverging starting point for meaning-making (cf. 4) in semiotically and polylingually re-configurated communication environments of urban and virtual spaces.

Keywords: hybridization, social identities, social mobility, urbanization

1 Discursive hybrids I: Polylingual resources as expressive discursive skill

Since the 1990s economic globalization and the digitalization of interactive communication have altered the face of social, cultural and linguistic diversity. As economic nodes urban spaces develop a centrifugal point for the collection of resources: cities as material and imagined (ideological) spaces came into being as a result of the consolidification of social, cultural, economic and political power. As social hubs, urban spaces construct ideas and innovations as imagined communities of practice. In cities as communities of practice, the hybrids of the newly arrived, and those that were there before, are continuously re-configurated (Yeoh 2006). Communicative practices in visible real (cities) or virtual spaces (Web, social media) index the risen bilingualism, or polylingualism, that grew ←13 | 14→from steady migration waves, and mobility across, for example, the European Union nation states in the last decades. The visibility of languages in these spaces does, however, also index the imbalance of demographically, and economically powerful languages such as English, which serves both as a lingua franca, and a symbolic code for postmodern affluent cultures, and less (or even invisible) languages which lack the power to surface as prestigious communicative codes beyond their regionally or socially restricted domains.1

Linguistic identities in the 19th, and most of the 20th century have been typically (in the European context of older and newer nation states) constructed as monolingual, while they tend to be constructed in urban spaces as polylingual (with one or several nationally protected languages and lingua franca-English) in the 21st century. In Germany discourses valorize German-English bilingualism, and set it up as the strongest linguistic currency for the economic elite, and the younger generations (Piller 2011). Linguistic diversity, and consequential patterns such as code-switching, and code-mixing, are no longer socially sanctioned in informal (or less conservative) public interactive exchanges, and on the internet (Androutsopoulos 2007). English does not only serve as the most powerful international lingua franca for denotational discursive interactions, but has gained display functions: English displays chic and post-modern life-styles, adventures and the sense of belonging to a global village (Piller 2001, Kelly-Holmes 2014). English is not linked to a particular ethnic identity, it is fluidly used in polylingual expressive modes for its symbolic value.2

Contemporary social identities are hybrid and complex, and media play a crucial role in their construction. Using diverse linguistic repertoires as resources (very often in contact with English) is gaining an unprecedented visibility in the mediascape (cf. Androutsopoulos 2007). The shift from monolingual to English dominant multilingual practices, and the emergence of an expressive discursive ←14 | 15→mode that severs the links between language and cultural background, sweeps from the mediascape into the linguascape of the writing cities. Language users (“writers”, and “readers” of messages in the streets, on shops, restaurants etc.) employ whatever linguistic features they have at their disposal to achieve their communicative goals as best as they can, regardless of how well they know the languages. The study of the products and practices of transfer and transference from English into other languages as well as the switching between English and other languages in ongoing conversational interactions, or in interactive writing, have become a major field in sociolinguistics as contact linguistics (cf. Auer 1999, Knospe 2014) and constitute the theme of some contributions in this volume3. The insertion of English into writings reflects the current ideological shift away from bilingualism as a deficit to bilingualism as added value (Jaffe 2006). We can discern the emergence of an expressive polylingual discursive mode in the media- and linguascape as fluid expressive mode that renders conceptions of languages as bounded communicative codes as too narrow: languages should be conceptualized as open and fluid verbal codes that can adapt other languages (that are not in juxtaposition) as resources for symbolic meaning-making. Fluid language mixing has nothing to do with bilingualism in the structuralist sense of knowing and switching between two languages predictably and proficiently, but, fluid bilinguals may exploit symbolic associations of languages in informal interactive exchanges.4 English (as lexical and phrasal repertoire) may function as an ideofier language for objects and activities that construct and display lexically induced narratives of imagined communities in real and social spaces on the continuum from global to local “village”. The discursive mode of ideofication can be envisaged as an informal expressive mode that has shun off the regularities of denotational discursive modes, and the traditional (social) norms of standard language appropriacy for meaning-making5. It was Lewis Carroll’s fictitious, ←15 | 16→self-assertive character Humpty Dumpty (adapted from a nursery rhyme figure) that proclaimed fluid, and context-induced lexical use as early as around the middle of the 19th century, much to the disbelief of the main protagonist Alice who, as a good girl, had been taught to follow the ideology of standard language norms. Humpty Dumpty: “When I use a word….it means exactly what I choose it to mean … The question is, which is to be master – that’s all.”6

Lexemes, in fact, have (as sememes) various referential ranges, which dictionaries based on historical principles map according to lexicographic conventions as one or many headwords7. Marketing strategists have discovered the ideofying function of languages with the advent of consumer-centred advertising a long, long time ago (cf. Koll-Stobbe 2000, ch. 4). The hybrid denotational-blends-expressive discourse mode, however, found its way into everyday communicative practices only recently. If one walks through real spaces, and browses through virtual spaces, or chats, one cannot escape the ideofying function of English as a display code in polylingual and multimodal discursive meaning-making. Exploiting English as a resource to “semantically upgrade” an object, or activity seems to have become a general feature of urban spaces and social media that construct mental models in “like”-and-“click” cultures as shared meanings and interests8.

2 Discursive hybrids II: Ludic re-contextualization as cognitive discursive competence

Polylingual writing in real and virtual spaces depicts patterns of insertional code-mixing, code-switching and other forms of transference that may index cognitive skills of true bilinguals. Literal and figurative layers of languages may be exploited as repertoires to achieve humorous effects, or metalinguistic meanings. Code-mixing, and code-blending may thus index a playful (re-)←16 | 17→contextualization strategy that depicts the under-researched ludic function of discursive practices. The meta-linguistic cognitive skill to shift attention from one language to another in a combined, or hybrid configuration, can be typically associated with the skill to ambiguate or disambiguate lexical or phrasal meanings by scanning the potential of hybrids for play, or punning. Language users are not just involved in processing discourse: at the same time, they are also engaged in dynamically constructing their subjective analysis and interpretation of the communicative situation on line (van Dijk 2008: 56). A competent language user – a bilingual language user in the context of this volume – may construct mental models of what he or she reads or hears, and compares the new information with old information. The skill to trigger mental models as playful re-contextualization has been a discursive skill employed by competent writers of fiction predominantly in the genre of poetry for centuries, before it found its way into the more profane genres of advertising, and more recently into (informal) everyday interactive discursive practices. A typical re-contextualization in a hybrid discourse can be cued through a diamorphically induced lexical or phrasal code-blending that triggers a (partial) homonym. The ability to re-frame a lexical unit in praesentia by a meta-linguistically processed “imagined” homonym in absentia constitutes the cognitive skill of inferencing (or controlled reading out messages “between the lines”)9. Re-contextualization as cognitive competence requires creative thinking as controlled, non-linear linguistic processing based on encyclopedic and semantic linguistic knowledge, as opposed to automatic linear processing, grounded in procedural syntactic knowledge (cf. Koll-Stobbe 2000: 20 ff.). Fauconnier, the founder of cognitive blending theory, used the iceberg-metaphor to explain the dynamics of meaning-making in the mental black-box of language processing: “Language is but the tip of the iceberg of cognitive construction. As discourse unfolds, much is going on behind the screens … abstract mental creations, which language helps to guide, but does not by itself define”.10

Self-assertive bilinguals find pleasure in situated uses of the semantic potential of languages for ad hoc meaning-making, triggered by associative processing and blending of languages that shuns off the regularities of languages as bounded and closed repertoires, and resources for denotational qua instrumental-utilitarian ←17 | 18→discourses. It seems that more informal, and ludic discursive practices give evidence for the fact that writers and readers in urban spaces, and in virtual spaces have freed themselves from the confines of the rules of standard language use and the social norm of appropriacy. The plethora of linguistic phenomena following polylingualism as a reality that developed out of areal mobility, and EU educational language learning policy, has been discovered as a semantic resource to construct shared meanings with the help of fluid language blending for socio-cultural groups with diverse language competences11. As the majority of younger EU-citizens can be seen as bilingual today they have discovered to use language repertoires they know selectively as potential resources for meaning-making, and that their discursive practices need not be restricted to norms of “well-formedness” according to the standard language rules.12

3 Hybridity as a controversially debated concept: Converging endpoint, or diverging starting point?

The lingua franca English facilitates economic and cultural cooperation across the world. English as a lingua franca is highly visible, and economically as well as demographically strong13. But why do groups of users of other big (and nationally protected) languages feel that their languages are threatened by processes of transfer and hybridization through contact with English – though we saw that phenomena of fluid transference as discursive skill may construct shared-meaning making in mixed urban social groups and could thus contribute to urban social stability.

The concept of hybridity is not a straightforward one, since it presupposes that there are two (or more) distinct codes that are combined. Aspects of hybridity are usually discussed with a backwards perspective using the distinguishable language entities as reference frames. And the model for the ←18 | 19→distinguishable language entity is the codified standard language. Hybridity could, however, also be seen as the unmarked starting point, the point of difference from which things emerge rather than the endpoint to which things converge (Otsuji/Pennycook 2013: 83). If we take this seriously, some of the phenomena of transfer, language mixing and blending across languages, as well as mixing formal and informal discursive modes might be symptoms of a marked starting point to intentionally use languages and their lexicons as resources for meaning-making that shuns off the rules imposed for appropriate lexical and phrasal uses. “Hybridity is a code for creativity and is used to describe not only innovations in terms of linguistic features, but increasingly the dynamics of mixed genres, styles, practices and discourses that make up the linguistic repertoires of people today” (Rubdy, Alsagoff 2013: 8).

Hybridity as a concept can work as a fairly programmatic notion to capture unpredictable combinations of language repertoires in predominantly informal discursive practices. The bilingual skills are used as resources for shared meaning-making across genres in everyday social interactions. But what is the essence of this blended use of languages? Is it just a whim to play, and show off (or “post”) linguistic skills across language boundaries? Or does it give a cue to more hidden processing abilities of language users – who can do more than predictable, automatic processing (and linear production) of grammatically cohesive linguistic strings. The current rave of artificial intelligence and the digital revolution with a focus on instrumental-utilitarian conceptions of language, might face substantial challenges if we would integrate fluid polylingual language use.

4 Hybridity as challenge for socio- and cognitive linguistic research paradigms: Linear versus non-linear sequentiality

The consequences of bilingualism, and hybrid semiotic processing across popular cultural, and everyday discursive practices has been studied extensively not only for contexts of mediated interactive discourses on the internet, but also for the domain of advertising in contexts of cities as social market-places both from structural, and discursive linguistic interpretative frameworks (cf. Koll-Stobbe 2015, Paviour-Smith 2016). Constructing ad hoc phrasal and figurative wordings characterizes a new discursive practice that draws on non-linear (controlled) semantic processing, and contextualization as cognitive skill that is grounded in shared (popular) cultural experiences (films, music, fashion, sports, life-styles etc.) across ethnic and (some) socio-economic borders. To process a diamorphically induced bilingual pun demands the cognitive skill to fluidly shift the attention between known languages, and to process the hybrid semantically ←19 | 20→in a non-linear, controlled way. These optional (and creative) discursive practices need an integrative framework of analysis across the disciplines of cognitive linguistics, sociolinguistics, and discursive linguistics to be fully understood. Non-linear sequentialities may need more dynamic (and fluid) analytical categories, and more complex qualitative methodologies.

This volume does not try to initiate an integrative linguistic quest for a revised study of discursive practices. Its aims are very modest: all we want to do is to point out the diversity of phenomena of transfer and hybridity as a consequence of language contact in various domains of discursive practices on a continuum from (extensively researched) lexical transfer to (under-researched) bilingual creativity.


Androutsopoulos, Jannis. 2007. Bilingualism in the mass media and on the internet. In: Monika Heller (ed.): Bilingualism: A Social Approach. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 207–232.

Auer, Peter. 1999. From codeswitching via language mixing to fused lects: Toward a dynamic typology of bilingual speech. International Journal of Bilingualism 3(4), 309–332.

Blommaert, Jan. 2010. The Sociolinguistics of Globalization. Cambridge: CUP.

Coulmas, Florian. 2013. Sociolinguistics. The Study of Speaker’s Choices. Cambridge: CUP (2nd edition).

De Mooij, Marieke K. 2011. Consumer Behaviour and Culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Fairclough, Norman. 1992. Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: CUP.

Jaffe, Alexandra. 2006. Minority language movements. In: Monika Heller (ed.): Bilingualism. A Social Approach. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 50–70.

Kelly-Holmes, Helen. 2014. Linguistic fetish: The sociolinguistics of visual multilingualism. In: David Machin (ed.): Visual Communication. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 135–151.

Knospe, Sebastian. 2014. Entlehnung oder Codeswitching? Sprachmischungen mit dem Englischen im deutschen Printjournalismus. Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang.

Koll-Stobbe, Amei. 2000. Konkrete Lexikologie des Englischen. Entwurf einer Theorie des Sprachkönnens. Tübingen: Niemeyer (repr. 2010 by Mouton de Gruyter: Berlin, New York).

Koll-Stobbe, Amei. 2015. Ideofiers in the commercial city: A discursive linguistic landscape analysis of hairdressers’ shop names. In: Mikko Laitinen ←20 | 21→and Anastassia Zabrodskaja (eds.): Dimensions of Sociolinguistic Landscapes in Europe. Berlin: Peter Lang, 53–75.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (August)
Code-Switching Re-contextualization Borrowing Bilingualism Metalinguistic Awareness Discourse Modes Discursive Branding Homo Ludens
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019., 264 pp., 17 fig. b/w, 8 tables

Biographical notes

Amei Koll-Stobbe (Volume editor)

Amei Koll-Stobbe is Professor Emerita, Chair in English Linguistics, University of Greifswald. She is the head of the research group «Discursive Multilingualism» funded by THEORIA Scientific Program for the Humanities of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.


Title: Informalization and Hybridization of Speech Practices
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