The 21st century technology has increased their visibility and the use among the ordinary people
in the society. This widely spread usage of internet can be seen among Bruneians as well. By 31
December 2017, 94.6% of Brunei’s total population had access to internet and it is expected that
it will further grow in 2018 (Internet world stats, 2018). The emergence of internet and new
means of communication facilitates computer mediated communication (CMC) where a new
type of language has emerged (Herring, 2012). According to Crystal (2006) this new type of
language contains features of daily speech and writing as well as some electronically mediated
properties. Androutsopoulos (2011) mentions that compared to other traditional media, more
instances of code switching and code mixing are found on internet.
Since it can be seen that so many interaction occur online, it would be interesting to learn about
the online language use among Bruneians. Coates (2013) states that, “when speakers are bi- or
multilingual, then language choice can have a key role in the construction of gendered identities”
As Brunei is a multilingual country, where most of its population is bilingual at least in English
and Malay, code-switch can be identified commonly in face to face interaction among the young
educated Bruneians and same behavior can be observed in the online language usage as well
(Wood, 2016). Since code-switching offline is a widely studied area, the purpose of this study is
to investigate code-switching among native Brunei university students on internet.
2. Literature review
2.1 Language status in Brunei education system
Jones (2012 cited in Wood, 2016 ) states that national System of Education for the 21st century,
SPN21, which was introduced in 2009 has promoted to teach mathematics and science in English
from the primary school. Before the introduction of SPN21, the education system was such that
for the first three years of primary school it was Malay-medium and then from the fourth year of
primary onwards it was shifted to English-medium (Ministry of Education 2009, p. 26). This
being the case, it is expected that the majority of Bruneians to be bilingual. Further, the tertiary
education in the country is also recognized to be bilingual Ishamina (2017) mentions that, “UBD
(University Brunei Darussalam) was set up in 1985 as a bilingual university that offered both
Malay-and English medium programmes”.
Code-switching is commonly found throughout East and Southeast Asia. In Brunei it has been
observed that code-switching between Brunei Malay and English is very common (McLellan,
2010). As code-switching is commonly recognized in the country, UBD students tend to code-
switch even in the classroom. Noor Azam, Zurinah, Liyana, Suciyati and Saidai (2014, as cited
in Ishamina ; Deterding, 2017) report that, “students often code-switch when talking among
themselves and also when they are speaking with their local tutors.” However they are likely to
use English to interact with the foreign lectures and academic staff and code-switching has been
hardly observed (Deterding and Salbrina ,2013, p. 107, as cited in in Ishamina ; Deterding,
As mentioned early code-switching is a common linguistic feature in Brunei and it is found in
both offline and online interactions. Wood (2016) mentions that on internet Bruneians tend to
code-switch not only between Malay and English but also use other languages such as Arabic.
Moreover it is seen that women tend to code-switch more often than men (Nurdiyana Daud 2012,
p. 86, as cited in Wood, 2016). Therefore this study will try to find out , whether gender
influence choice of code-switching, whether language choice for code-switching is influenced by
the gender and finally whether frequency of code-switching depend on gender.
An online questionnaire (Appendix 1) was used to collect data for this study. The questionnaire
was designed to get an overview about the online language use among UBD students and
consisted 7 multiple choice questions. The link to the questionnaire was distributed via
Whatsapp, a highly used social media platform among the UBD students. Access for the
questionnaire was limited to one week. Table 1 shows information about the respondents and
their first language (L1) and their second language (L2).
Gender L1 L2
Malay Chinese English Malay Chinese English
16 Females 15 1 – – – 16
16 Males 15 – 1 1 1 14
Table 1 – Respondent details
4. Results and discussion
4.1 Does gender influence choice of code-switching?
Table 2 shows the respondents language choice in their day-to-day online interactions. As shown
in table 2, 62.5% of female respondents stated that they do code-switch in their online
conversations, whereas only 56.3% male respondents acknowledged that they code-switch in
online conversations. It seems that female like to code-switch on internet. As somebody stated
female tend to code-switch more than male as it is seen as a norm of the society. However the
difference drawn from this study is not that significant (X2 = 0.12955, df = 1, p-value = 0.7189),
so no conclusion can be drawn.
Female 10 (62.5%) 6 (37.5%)
Male 9 (56.3%) 7 (43.7%)
Total 19 13
Table 2 – Preference for code-switch between males and females
4.2 Does the language choice for code-switching is influenced by the gender?
Chinese-Malay-English Malay-English Use L1 or L2
Female 1 (06.2%) 12 (75%) 3 (18.8%)
Comment e1: Find the reference babe
Male 0 (0%) 11 (68.8%) 5 (31.2%)
Total 1 23 8
Table 3 – Language choice between males and females
It can be seen that female (81.2%) tend to code switch more than male respondents (68.8%).
However there is no significant difference (X2 = 1.5435, df = 2, p-value = 0.4622), so that no
conclusion can be drawn.It is interesting to note that even though 13 respondents mentioned that
they do not code-switch (table 2), as shown in table 3 only 8 respondents mentioned that they use
either their L1 or L2 during their conversations. So that there is difference between the
respondents preference for code-switching and their language preference. This could have
happened due to the unfamiliarity of the lexical item “code-switch”, even though a clear
explanation had been provided alongside the question in the questionnaire.
4.3 Does frequency of code-switching depend on gender?
Overall Average 3.44
Table 4 – Average of male and female code-switching
Female respondents are significantly more favourable to code-switch (aversge = 3.75) than the
male respondents (average = 3.12). This is further illustrated in graph 1. However, since the p-
value is greater than 0.05 the difference is not significant (t = 1.1199, df = 29.943, two tailed,
independent samples, p-value = 0.27).
Graph 1 – Boxplot of male and female code-switching frequency
The results supports the initial hypothesis of this study, that female prefer to code switch more
than male. However there have been few limitations in this study such as, limited number of
respondents, respondents were not fully aware about certain lexical items that were used.
Therefor a complete and a general conclusion cannot be drawn based on this study. Further
studies to trangulise this study may help to arrive at a solid conclusion about the influence of
gender on online language preference.