Current accounts of language alternation from an identity-related perspective (e.g. Gumperz, 1982; Myers-Scotton, 1993) are based on the view that language alternation is an instance of symbolic action. However, recent developments (e.g. Auer, 1984; Gafaranga, 1999, 2000), conducted within an ethnomethodological/CA framework, view language alternation among bilingual speakers as practical social action. One of the main concerns in these new developments is the issue of order in bilingual conversation. This paper, using the methodology of membership categorisation analysis (Sacks, 1966, 1974), suggests an identity-related account of the orderliness of language alternation. It argues that, in order to account for the orderliness (i.e. the possibility) of language alternation, language preference must be viewed as a membership categorisation device. The discussion in this paper is based on conversations collected among bilingual Rwandese whose languages are French and Kinyarwanda.
- Category-bound activity