Processing Mixed Language

Project: Research project

Project Details


Code-switching, the alternating use or mixing of two languages in bilingual communication, is often assumed to be a sign of defective language use, and is therefore likely stigmatized because people incorrectly conclude that speakers who code-switch are limited to producing an amalgam of broken bits of each language. In reality, a general characteristic of mixed utterances is that they are produced fluidly, without hesitation, pauses, or corrections, reflecting a systematic and exquisitely controlled integration of two linguistic systems. This project will collect eye-tracking data to examine code-switching during bilingual language reading and spoken language comprehension. The approach is cross-disciplinary, building on and bridging advances in both linguistic approaches to code-switching and experimental psycholinguistic work on language processing. The proposed experiments are motivated by two central questions: 1) Are there syntactic contexts that facilitate the processing of code-switched language?; and 2) How does the proficiency of speakers in both of their languages modulate language processing during comprehension? The answer to these questions will contribute to the advancement of knowledge in several ways. With demographic changes in the US and more communication between individuals here and in other countries, the number of people communicating in writing is increasing at an extraordinary rate. Code-switching is ubiquitous in bilingual communities and it is becoming increasingly more present in its written form, especially in the case of Spanish-English speakers. Given the rapid growth of Spanish-English bilingualism in the US, it is increasingly important to improve understanding of how bilinguals process mixed language discourse. Second, the project evaluates proficiency in a second language more rigorously than past studies. Therefore, the results will provide valuable information for assessing second language proficiency, which is crucial in contexts in which proficient bilingual communication is required for successful cross-cultural interactions. In addition, this project will support bilingual graduate student researchers and bilingual undergraduate research assistants from underrepresented populations in the US, including Chicanos and other US Latinos, thus promoting the inclusion and training of individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups in scientific research both at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Effective start/end date8/1/081/31/13


  • National Science Foundation: $280,000.00


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