Spanish-English code mixing at the auxiliary phrase: Evidence from eye-movement data

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This article presents experimental data to investigate the nature of the distributional differences reported in the Spanish-English code-switching literature for AUXILIARY + PARTICIPLE phrases. Naturalistic data show that switches between the Spanish auxiliary haber ('have') and an English participle are largely non-existent. However, switches involving the auxiliary estar ('be') occur rather frequently. The primary goal of this paper is to test the status of these two switch types in terms of their processibility and grammaticality. Two reading experiments were conducted examining switches involving the Present Perfect form (Experiment 1), and the Progressive form (Experiment 2). For each experiment, two conditions were created. In Condition 1, the switch occurred at the phrasal boundary (terroristas HAVE INJURED and ciudadanos ARE SUPPORTING). In Condition 2, the switch occurred between the auxiliary and the participle (terroristas HAN INJURED and ciudadanos ESTÁN SUPPORTING). English-Spanish bilinguals read sentences in each condition. Data were collected using an eye-tracker that recorded reading times for the auxiliary phrase. After reading each sentence, participants performed a grammaticality judgment task. The findings revealed that participants took significantly longer to read HABER + ENGLISH PARTICIPLE (terroristas HAN INJURED) switches than switches at the phrasal boundary (terroristas HAVE INJURED). However, ESTAR + ENGLISH PARTICIPLE switches (ciudadanos ESTÁN SUPPORTING) did not incur a significant reading cost. In addition, HABER + ENGLISH PARTICIPLE switches were judged ungrammatical significantly more times than ESTAR + ENGLISH PARTICIPLE switches. These findings suggest that switches at the auxiliary phrase are processed differently, depending on the lexical items that fill the auxiliary node. The results support the hypothesis that the degree of boundedness of the elements in the auxiliary phrase impacts the ease with which code-switching occurs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-34
Number of pages28
JournalRevista Internacional de Linguistica Iberoamericana
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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