Code-Mixing, Code-Switching, and Dissonance in Communication

A code is a system of sounds, symbols, or signs used by a group of people to communicate with one another. A speaker should choose a code that his audience understands to communicate with them. In other words, to pass information or message to the listeners, the speaker should select a language that they know. People are not limited to a particular style of speech; hence they can switch from one type, technique, or mode of address to the other.

(A) Code Mixing

Code mixing is the use of two or more languages by a bilingual or multilingual interchangeably in the same speech, social situation, or communication event. This statement indicates that the speaker combines two or more languages in an utterance. This could be substituting the words of a language with another or blending two or more languages in no specific order. Code mixing is intra-sentential. The languages are used within the same utterance, spoken, or written, with an audience who understands them.


(i) Wal lahi, I did not see you. (English language/Hausa (Arabic) language)

Meaning: I swear, I did not see you.

(ii) Biko nye m some money. (English language/Igbo language)

Meaning: Please give me some money.

(v) Bawo ni life e dear mi. (English language/Yoruba language)

Meaning: How is life, my dear.

 (B) Code Switching

Code-switching is the switch from one language to another by a speaker in a single discourse. When people speak more than one language, they can switch from one language to another while communicating. When the speaker makes the first utterance in a particular language, he may decide to make the next utterance in another language. Code-switching depicts proficiency and competence.


(i) Nye m ego. (Meaning: Give me some money.). I need some money. (English language/ Igbo language)

(ii) Bani ruwa. (Meaning: Give me water.). I need some water. (English language/ Hausa language)

(iii) Ebi n pami gaan. (Meaning: I am famished.). I need some food. (English language/ Yoruba language)

(C) Dissonance

Dissonance is a lack of consistency, or compatibility, that arises from different beliefs, opinions, or viewpoints in communication because of different experiences, norms, backgrounds, cultural values, etc. Dissonance, in simple terms, is a disagreement or discord that arises in a communication process, sometimes from the speakers having different points of view while they communicate with each other. For instance, a traditionalist refuses to speak with a Christian for reasons of a different religious point of view.

Dissonance may also arise from language use in the perception of individual words. Words like ‘shortly’ and ‘late’ are relative to an individual’s perception. The result sometimes is an argument without either of them convincing the other. It constitutes a barrier to communication as one might refuse to communicate with the other because he finds what the other is saying different from his point of view. To overcome dissonance, people should consider each other’s opinions, background, intelligence, point of view, etc., and clarify information during the communication process.