Mar 5 2021

Code-switching at the interface of grammar, cognition and culture

Talks in Linguistics (TiL)

March 5, 2021

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM




Chicago, IL

M. Parafita Couto (Leiden University)

It is well known that bilinguals “mix” languages when they communicate with one another (Deuchar 2012). This is known as code-switching, as illustrated in (1), which was produced by a Papiamento-Dutch bilingual (Papiamento in bold, Dutch in italics):
(1) un               elftal      mixto
det.INDEF   eleven   mixed
a mixed eleven [football team]’ (Parafita Couto & Gullberg 2019)

The general consensus among researchers is that code-switching is not a random mix of languages, and that bilinguals intuitively regulate the switch points in their speech. Despite extensive research in this area (Myers-Scotton 2002, MacSwan 2005, Eppler 2010, Goldrick, Putnam & Schwarz 2016, Grimstad, Riksem, Lohndal & Åfarli 2018, López 2020, among others), no clear rules have been identified to explain the regularities underlying mixed speech. To a large extent, this is due to the fact that the existing data originate from different, non-comparable, methodologies and populations. Additionally, how the two languages are used and combined in a community (its “norms”) is an understudied factor influencing code-switching patterns. Especially unclear in this context is how children acquire these patterns through intergenerational transmission.

Focusing on the nominal and verbal domains, I will present findings from a series of comparative studies on different language pairs (e.g. Spanish-English, Welsh-English, Papiamento-Dutch, Spanish-Basque) that investigate how child and adult bilinguals from different communities representing different geographical settings, history and distributions of relative status of the language (e.g. Spanish-English in Miami, Nicaragua, Belize, New Mexico or Puerto Rico) produce, judge, or process bilingual structures. Linking linguistic, psycholinguistic and social considerations, I will highlight how these cross-community comparisons will allow us to disentangle the contribution of linguistic and extra-linguistic factors to the observed uniformity and variability of code-switching patterns.

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School of Literatures, Cultural Studies and Linguistics

Date posted

Jan 19, 2021

Date updated

Mar 1, 2021