1. The WordReference Forums have moved to new forum software. (Details)

alternatively/alternately

Discussion in 'English Only' started by englishelp, Sep 29, 2010.

  1. englishelp Senior Member

    Chinese
    Hi,

    I was just wondering if "alternatively" could be used to substitute the word "alternately" in the following sentence. I have given the context so that the meaning intended should be clear enough. It is about switching from one language to another when one speaks.

    "The second view of code-switching is that both languages are alternately 'activated' and when the word in a sentence begin to come from the second language, this indicates that the first language has been 'switched off' and the second language 'switched on'. In such a view, both languages are genuine base languages."

    I feel that what it is trying to say here is that you change from A to B and perhaps to A again. Therefore, for this reason, only "alternately" should be used. But apparently, someone seems to think that "alternatively" can be used to replace "alternately" here.

    What do you think?

    Thanks a lot.
     
  2. cropje_jnr

    cropje_jnr Senior Member

    Wollongong, Australia
    English - Australia
    The meaning can differentiate where:

    "Alternately" means in an alternate manner, where there is alternation (i.e. continuous change back-and-forth) between two things. This is the case in your context.

    "Alternatively" is used to introduce an alternative, i.e. another possibility. This is not the case in your context.

    I would not use them interchangeably here.
     
  3. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
  4. englishelp Senior Member

    Chinese
    Thank you both! It's good to know that I was right.
     
  5. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I'm afraid I don't think you were quite right, Englishelp:

    Let's look at the sentence,

    "The second view of code-switching is that both languages are alternately 'activated' and when the word in a sentence begin to come from the second language, this indicates that the first language has been 'switched off' and the second language 'switched on'. In such a view, both languages are genuine base languages."

    I suspect that this is concerned with what happens when one starts to speak to someone with several 'base' languages, in one of those 'base' languages. I am familiar with this issue because I have two base languages, English and French, and if someone starts to speak to me in one of these languages, I don't think 'Ah! This person is speaking to me in English (or French)' I just reply in the language in which I've been addressed.

    On the other hand when someone addresses me in Spanish or Italian, which happens quite often, I have to ask myself which language they are using before I reply in that language.

    Alternately in your example would suggest that I first speak English and then French and then English again, and so on. I don't think that is what is meant at all. Alternatively would be equally inappropriate, for the reasons explained by the others.

    If I've understood you correctly, I think your sentence should run something like this: The second view of code-switching is that the second language is 'activated' when the word at the start of a sentence comes from this second language...

    As you can see, I think that, if you want the English to be clear, there are issues which need resolving in the sentence beyond the question of alternately versus alternatively.
     
  6. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    Is this a sentence you wrote, or a sentence someone else wrote?
     
  7. englishelp Senior Member

    Chinese
    This is a reply to both Cagey and Thomas.

    The paragraph I quoted was not written by me. It was from a professor's lecture notes. So he was right in using "alternately" there. (But thanks Thomas for making the rest of the sentence sound clearer. Though the sentence was not written by me, I definitely have benefit from the suggestions on rewording.)

    Here is the problem. In one of his exam questions, the professor used the word "alternatively" instead to refer to the same phenomenon as described in the quoted paragraph. The exact wording of the exam question goes: "...it is argued that both of the speaker's two languages are alternatively activated".

    I felt it was odd to use "alternatively" here when he obviously meant "alternately". So I asked him about it. He acknowledged that there is a typo (that is, the word in the exam question should read "alternately"). But he nonetheless says that the meaning could be communicated in the same way by the word "alternatively" in this context.

    That is why I posted the question here for "a second opinion".







     
  8. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hello englishelp

    "Alternately" makes sense to me in your context; "alternatively" doesn't.

    I think your professor was trying to justify a typo which is not justifiable:(.
     

Share This Page