English in Nepal: Code-switching and code-mixing on live Nepali TV show


*Kamal P. Adhikari


This paper entitled “Code-switching and code-mixing on live Nepali TV show” aims at exploring the use of code switching and code mixing in Nepali live television show“Call Kantipur”. First, the paper discusses on the types of code switching and code mixing used by program presenters. This study is guided from the bilingual theory and it applies a qualitative descriptive method to analyzethe data collected from three different episodes. In those three episodes, the presenters switched and mixed the codes several times and most of them were grammatical code-switching comprising intra-sentential, inter-sentential, extra-sentential. However, the use of code-switching from a sociolinguistic perspective (situational and metaphorical) was rarely used.  The finding shows that the factors like bilingual manner, social prestige and habit of individual presenter in using language had a direct influence on the frequency of code- switching or code-mixing.

Keywords: Code switching, code-mixing, bilingual, multilingualism


Language is a system of arbitrary verbal arrangementwhich is primarily used to communicate among the members of a speech community. Through language we interact and express our feeling and thoughts. In fact, language is the means to make other people know as what and how one feels i.e. sad, happy, angry etc. There are several languages spoken in the world and each country uses at least one distinctive language which every individual of the country possibly masters over as their native language. Some people can use more than one language whereas some other can use more than two or three too. The one who speaks only one language is called monolingual; one who speaks two languages is called bilingual, and one who speaks three or more languages is called multilingual. The ability of an individual to learn several languages is determined by region and environmentwhere s/he has been brought up.In bilingual and multilingual society people are indirectly forced to learn two or three languages. For instance, Newars of Kathmandu can speak Newari as their first language, and Nepali as their second language.

Communication is an essential quality of all humankind which helps to strengthen relationship with each other. Communication makes people understand about the use of common language through which they get information or send and receive the message. Normally, people communicate in two ways; either in written form or oral form. The process of sending and receiving message through letter, newspaper, book etc. are the means of written communication, whereas oral form of communication usually takes place in face to face context. Oral communication these days has been possible even from distance because of the invention of telecommunication, social medias like Skype, Imo, Viber, Facebook messenger and internet etc.

In the present context, English language has spread rapidly and extensively across the globe. Most of the people around the globe feel proud and distinct themselves if they can communicate in English. In fact, English has become the second language in most of the countries of Asia, Africa and in Middle East. It is perhaps the most dominant language in the world communication, and functions as a lingua-franca across the globe. Moreover, knowledge of English has made each individual bilingual so that they usually switch the code from their native language to English or English language to Native language while communicating and so is the case in Nepal.


In Sociolinguistics, code refers to a language or a variety of language. A code helps people to communicate when they want to talk to each other. The code is a particular language, dialect, style, register or variety. According to Mesthrie (2000), code is any variety of language usually stressing on the linguistic rules that underpin the variety. When two or more people meet, they usually require a code to speak. Wardaugh (1986) defines code as a system used for communication between two or more parties used on any occasions.Therefore, people usually select a particular code whenever they choose to speak, and they may also decide to switch from one code to another or mix codes, sometimes even in very short utterances.The code denotes to speech varieties or dialects in a language or even languages. This is widely used in the field of linguistics, and it is studied always in a social context. Further, it is a signal used by the speaker to convey some message.


Code-switching is a very common feature of any multilingual society or country like India, Nepal etc. Code-switching is the phenomenon of beginning an utterance in one language and changing the language mid-course (Sailaja, 2009). Code-switching occurs at various levels – the word, the sentence and at the level of discourse. This usually happens in an informal context. Code-switching from Nepali to English language is the most commonly found context in Nepal. According to Victoria and Rodman (1998), code-switching is a term in linguistics referring to using more than one language or dialect in conversation. Code-switching can be distinguished from other language contact phenomena such as loan translation, borrowing, pidgins and creoles, and transfer or interference. Similarly, Myres and Scotton (2006) state that code-switching is the use of two language varieties in the same conversation. He further notes that not only contextual factors play a role in the code choice, but factors such as social identity and educational background also affect the speaker’s choice of code. From the definitions, we can say that code- switching occurs more with bilingual or multilingual speakers.


Code-mixing is a phenomenon of language closely related to code-switching. Wardhaugh (1986) states that code-mixing occurs when conversant use both languages together to the extent that they change from one language to the other in course of a single utterance. It means that the conversant just change some of the elements in their utterance. Code-mixing takes place without a change of topic and can involve various levels of language, e.g., morphology and lexical items.

The concept of code-mixing is used to refer to a more general form of language contact that may include cases of code-switching and the other forms of contact which emphasizes the lexical items. Muysken (2000) uses the term code-mixing to refer to all cases where lexical item and grammatical features from two languages appear in one sentence. In relation to the language and social groups, code-mixing is a phenomenon of bilingual or multilingual society. Bilingual or multilingual speakers use two or more languages simultaneously which almost represent two or more cultures, and of course, it can not be separated from the result of such speakers’ language use.

Types of Code-switching

Language is used in social context.Bilingual and multilingual speakers usually shift from one language to another while interacting with each other. It is a cognitive process that comprises several distinctive examples of code-switching.In fact, code-switching is the process of inserting the embedded language in the matrix language in utterance (Myers Scotton, 2001). Based  varieties of language shifts, linguists have divided code-switching from two different perspectives: grammatical and sociolinguistics. Poplak (1980) identified three types of code-switching (intra-sentential, inter-sentential and tag switching) which come under the grammatical perspective. Similarly, from the socio-linguistic perspective, there are metaphorical and situational code-switching.

Inter-sentential switching occurs outside the clause or the sentence. The example of inter-sentential code switching is- malai man lageko garchu,it’s my life; it’s my choice. On the other hand, intra-sentential code-switching occurs within a clause or sentence, i.e. Wow! What a dharaprabhaha. Similarly, tag switching occurs as a tag phrase or word in both L1 and L2. Tag switching usually befalls carrying the meaning of prior sentence while communicating. For instance: exactly, timile vaneko kura sancho ho. In fact, the given example does not clarify what the speaker intends to share.Here, meaning of such codes is understood based on the early spoken sentences.From the sociolinguistic perspectives, according to Blom & Gumpers (1982), situational code-switching involves change of topic, participants, as well as setting of a conversation; on the other hand, metaphorical code-switching entails different conversational purposes such as to reject, to apologize or to complain.

Differences: Code-switching and Code-mixing

Code-switching is an inter-sentential change from one language or dialect to another. Code-switching takes place in sentence or clause level in a language. On the other hand, code-mixing is an intra-sentential change in which the elements of one language incorporate in another. It occurs in words, phrases, particles level of a language.Some of the examples of code-switching and code-mixing used in the live TV show are as below.

Table 1: Examples of code-switching and code-mixing


–         We will be back after this break, Kantipur TV herdai garnu hola

–         Kohi hunuhuncha line ma so let’s welcome him or her.

–         Have a wonderful time, yeha ko samaya hasi khusi bitos


–            Yo samaya especially yahaharuko lagi vanera chutyaieko ho

–            Aba samaya vaeko chha chhoto musical break ko

–            Tapai kasto feel garnuhuncha?


Code-switching usually supports a distinctive function within the sentence whereas code-mixing does not support distinctive function.

Reasons for Code-switching and Code-mixing

Code-switching and code-mixing are two different features of language commonly noticed in speech act these days. People use these featuresin their daily communication simply because they have knowledge of two or more languages. Nababan (1994) presentedfour factors that cause people in the use of code-switching and code-mixing. First, Bilingual nature of the speakersenables them to use two languages simultaneously by switching and mixing the codes of two languages. Second, the proficiency in using more than one language (specially use of English language) is often taken as a prestigious task. So, people use code-switching and code-mixing as a prestige language. Third, code-switching and code-mixing occur situationally. In relax situation or in normal situation, code-mixing occurred. It is the reason why the writers just do their habitual action. Finally, Nababan thinks that speakers switch and mix the codes because there is not appropriate word or when there is a lack of vocabulary in one language.In order to maintain the fluency in their communication, people sometimes change the word in one language into the word in another language.

Purpose & Research Questions

The purpose of this study is to explore on the types of code-switching and code-mixing used by the program presenters and to analyze the possible influencing factors.

Research Questions

  • What types of code-switching and code-mixing do TV presenters use?
  • What are the possible influencing factors of code-switching and code-mixing on live TV show?

Theoretical Framework

The paper is guided by bilingual theory as its theoretical framework. Bilingualism focuses on the use of at least two languages, either by an individual or by a group of speakers (Longman, 1992). It motivates the speakers on alternative use of two languages.


This paper utilizes qualitative descriptive approach as its research design. The qualitative approach is a multi-method in focus, involving an interpretative, naturalistic approach to its subject matter (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994). This approach to research was found suitable for this study as it permits the researcher to analyze language as it occurs, using multiple perspectives to collect data. In fact, qualitative research involves analysis of data such as words, examples from interviews, transcripts, pictures, videos, recordings, notes, documents and records of materials etc. Similarly, this study also constitutes therecorded videos of Call Kantipuras the source of information related to the use of code-switching and code-mixing by the program presenters. For this, three different episodes previously telecast on Kantipur TV were downloaded from YouTube and information were taken for analysis.

Call Kantipur is a live Nepali TV show telecast daily on Kantipur TV from 5:05pm to 5:55 pm. The program includes discussion with the callers on current issues and entertainsthe viewers with exclusive and soothing music videos. Initially, the program was started by Mr. Suraj Singh Thakuri, but many presenters have already shown their talent and skills online through this program till the date. The program is especially popular among youngsters.

Findings and Discussions

Language of broadcasting is different from the language of daily communication. People usually do not use code-switching in their normal daily communication, however it is extensively used in media. Sailaja (2009) states that code-switching is quite common in advertisements, songs, film dialogues, gossip columns in newspapers and magazines, chat shows on radio and television and on various billboards and in everyday speech. Kachru (2006)demonstrates the use of code-switching in pop culture, specifically in songs in Hindi films. Code-switching is extensively used even by Nepalese Media personalities. They particularly use it when they are hosting the live talk shows on TV or Radios.

Based on the information collected from three episodes of Call Kantipur, the findings are discussed on the following three different themes.

Extensive Use of Code-mixing

It is universally accepted feature of language that a bilingual speaker usually tends to switch or mix the codes from one language to another as per his/her convenience. The trend can be vividly observed in Nepali societies too. Mostly, youngsters extensively use code-switching and code-mixing in their daily communication; it often happens in Nepali to English language and sometimes from English to Nepali language as well. English in Nepal is considered to be a prestigious and indispensable language. It is widely used in school curriculum extending a generous recognition of the second language. This is why the influences of English areamenably seen in daily communication in Nepalese contexts. Nepali TV shows especially in informal programs frequently use code-switching and code-mixing.

When I viewed three different episodes of Call Kantipur downloading from YouTube, I found more frequent use of code-mixing, rather than code-switching. Code-mixing was found in almost every sentence. For example:

  • Good evening and Namaste
  • Ladies and gentlemen, aaja pani hami yahaharulai entertain garaun vanera
  • Yo samaya especially yahaharuko lagi vanera chutyaieko ho
  • Hami sanga interact garna, you guys have to call us
  • Basically, hami tyo kura ignore gari ra ko
  • Aba samaya vaeko chha musical break ko
  • Exactly aafu alert vaera basnu parcha
  • Tapai kasto feel garnuhuncha?
  • Wow! What a dharaprabhaha
  • Yehale clarification dina saknu vaena
  • Ahile ko lagishort break ko samaya vayeko chha
  • So, please hamro facebook page like garna navulu hola
  • Dilu ji, welcome chha yehalai call Kantipur ma
  • Ahile ko lagi yo music video
  • Immediately, hami lai text garna saknu huncha

Based on these examples of code-mixing, we can assume that English language has deeply rooted in the system of speech act among the Nepalese speakers. Majority of them admit English as the language of elite or educated groups so that they prefer to use it as aprestigious language in their daily communication. On the other hand, TV presenters mix the codes more frequently than the use of code-switchingbecause majority of TV viewers in Nepal are still incompetent of understanding English. Use of code-mixing enables them to understand their talks easily since it uses less lexes of English in comparison to code-switching.

Dominant use of Grammatical code-switching

From the grammatical perspective, code-switching occurs mostly in intra-sentential, inter-sentential and extra-sentential levels. Code-switching in intra-sentential level includes the shifting of words or phrases whereas inter-sentential code-switching includes the shift of clause or sentences. Extra-sentential code-switching usually occurs in the beginning of a sentence or at the end.

When I went through the episodes of Call Kantipur, I found more often use of grammatical code-switching. Sociolinguistic code-switching (metaphorical and situational code-switching) were rarely used in course of communication. Some of the examples of grammatical code-switching were as below:

Intra-sentential code-switching

Intra-sentential code-switching occurs within a sentence comprising the codes of two different languages for denoting a single message or function. For example:

  • Aba samaya vaeko chha musical break ko, after this, hami pheri vetne chau.
  • Wow! What a dharaprabhaha… it’s really ke vanne …
  • I guess Tapai confused hunuhuncha jasto lagyo mali

These examples of code-switching are the examples of code-mixing too. Here, the codes switched in the sentences have no distinctive grammatical function. They, together with two different codes of two different languages have collaboratively appeared to make a grammatically complete sentence without varying the topic or message.

Inter-sentential code-switching

Inter-sentential code-switching occurs in a sentence comprising the codes of two different languages for denoting two different messages or functions. For example:

  • Hami sanga kura garne ho vane; you guys have to call us at 5545678
  • It’s my life, it’s my right; malai man lageko garchu
  • Ahile lai bida line sanmaya vayeko chha; see you tomorrow at the same time

The above-mentioned examples of inter-sentential code-switching have two idiosyncratic clauses in each sentence. Each clause is formed in different grammatical and lexical structure and they carry two different meanings as well.

Extra-sentential code-switching

Extra-sentential code-switching occurs in a sentence as a tag. It usually appears either in the beginning of the sentences or at the end. For example:

  • Well, aaja ko kurakani ko topic chha …
  • Alright, Tapai ko bichar malai man paryo
  • Hami le aruko vawana lai bujnu parcha, am I right ?
  • I really appreciate for your wonderful thought, ati sundar bichar!

Extra-sentential code-switching occurs in a sentence usually as a discourse fillers. It usually appears in communication process but carries no special meaning. It only gives stress to the meaning of the main sentence.

From the observationof all the three episodes, I found only one example of metaphorical code-switching i.e. Tit for tat vaneko yehi ho. Most probably, media personalities don’t use metaphorical language because their language should be comprehendible for all kinds of viewers. If the language is used simple and lucid, it is easy for all to understand it.

Influencing Factors to Code-switching

Some constraints have been stated in the literature on code-switching – it has been said that shifts between languages are possible only in certain places and not just about anywhere. Based on Hymes (1986), there are eight different factors (setting, participants, ends, act sequence, key, instrumentalities, norm of interaction and genre) influencing the occurrence of code choice. Most interestingly, all the factors collectively form an acronym of SPEAKING. Similarly, Nababan (1994) presented four different factors (bilingualism, prestige, situation and lack of appropriate word) that directly or indirectly influence in choosing the codes.

When I watched the videos, I found the habitual influence of an individual presenter in using the codes in their communication. From the comparative study of all presenters, I could notice that extra-sentential code-switching i.e. all right, by the way, ok etc. were maximumly used by Suraj Singh Thakuri. Similarly, I mean was frequently used by Akisha Bista whereas Biraj Khadka used yes, ladies and gentlemen frequently. Similarly, Riju Shrestha was different from other as she comparatively switched and mixed sparsely. However, for me, all of their code-switching signaled the collective influence of prestige and bilingualism.


Based on the theme of topic and concept of this paper, we can see that both code-switching and code-mixing befall both in written and oral language. Media personalities, in an informal setting prefer to switch and mix the codes and such practices are profoundly seen in different levels of language i.e. phonological, morphological and syntax level. Frankly speaking,code-switching and code-mixing sound interesting while communicating to each other since it maintains liveliness in the speech act. But, I’m afraid if code-switching is extensively used in national medias, it may cultivate a hybrid-culture among the languages. It maykill the original features or property of the language. It represents no more identity of any particular linguistic group. So, the linguists and the concerned authority must pay attention for the preservation of originality of each language. Accordingly, all speakers are also required to use their native language correctly discouraging the use of code-switching and code-mixing.


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(Kamal Adhikari has been teaching in different colleges and schools of Kathmandu Valley. for last 14 years. He is the ELT  practioner and M.Phil student of Kathmandu University. He has presented several research based papers in different conferences.  His area of interest includes ICT, Methodology and language planning and policy.)


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