"Baby, Te Amo": Code Switching as a Way to Develop and Limit Intimacy in Multilingual, Romantic Relationships


  • Bracey Hong Parr Saint Louis University, Madrid




This paper explores code switching between individuals involved in multilingual, romantic relationship, these being defined as relationships in which at least one partner speaks at least one other language. Grounded in previous research in the field of code switching but departing from its concentration on macrosocial phenomenon and rather focusing on language alternation in a much more intimate setting, this study will answer the following questions: what forms does code switching take among these couples? What does it mean to code-switch for these romantic couples? Lastly, what relational function does code switching play? By conducting ethnographic interviews with five individuals and two couples and analyzing the data through Spradley‘s (1980) developmental research sequence, five forms of code switching emerged. Meanings of these code-switches include consideration, possessing authority in the relationship, professional or romantic identity, emotional conveyance, identity performance, and secrecy. The relational function that these meanings of code switching play among these couples is ascertained as being a way to increase or limit intimacy. Finally, implications for relationships of this type are discussed as well as further directions for studies in this field.