One person, two languages: The example of Mila Kunis

 

This post will look at one extract from the video “Mila Kunis speaking fluently Russian at Urgant Show March 7th 2013 (with James Franco)” and share the results of quantitative and qualitative analysis of languages used by the actress. The speech excerpts were examined in terms of the proportion of languages present, the form of mixing the languages (intrasentential and intersentential codeswitching), as well as the purpose of switching between the languages.

Word calculation within the speech excerpt showed that the proportion of the words in English and Russian, which is 65% and 35% respectively, reflected the fact that the speaker’s dominant language is English. Weak command of Russian was also seen from the strong presence of such simple words as yes and no in Mila’s Russian. Almost one out of ten words said in Russian was yes or no.

Further examination of “the use of two grammatical systems within the same linguistic exchange” (De Jong, 2011, p. 254), two types of code-switching were found. Code-switching “across phrases or sentences” (De Jong, 2011, p. 254), or intersentential code-switching, occurred 22 times. Intrasentential code-switching or code-switching “within a phrase or sentence” (De Jong, 2011, p. 254), in its turn, was identified only three times. The reason for inserting English phrases and words in Russian sentences was Mila’s limited lexis in the language. The actress simply did not know Russian words for network and soap opera. Similarly, intersentential code-switching was frequently used for the same purpose. Mila herself says Мене будет легче это ответить по английском языке, если it’s ok.” Thus, it is not surprising that in most cases she does not speak Russian longer than for one sentence and prefers to speak English when it involves longer answers.

The prevalence of intersentential over intrasentential code-switching in this case was explained by the presence of the two interlocutors speaking two different languages. Mila employs intersentential code-switching due to its function to direct the comment or reply to the particular person. While talking to Ivan, Mila speaks Russian. However, when commenting on James’ words and asking him, the actress employs English.

On the whole, to identify some patterns related in intrasentential code-switching, larger excerpt needs to be examined in terms of parts of speech and topic related patterns. Similarly, by looking at a bigger sample of intersentential code-switching in Russian, it would be possible to see whether some English grammatical patterns are present in Russian utterances.

References

De Jong, E. (2011). Foundations in multilingualism in education: From principles to practice. Philadelphia: Caslon, Inc.

Mila Kunis speaking fluently Russian at Urgant Show March 7th 2013 (with James Franco). Video retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDeyI_xjjo4 on February 13, 2017

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