“Code-switching in bilinguals: Integrating linguistic and neurocognitive approaches”
Hosted by the WashU Linguistics Program.
Abstract: A unique feature of bilingual speech is that bilinguals often produce utterances that switch between languages, such as ““I ate huevos para el desayuno” [eggs for breakfast]. Code-switching has been studied extensively in the field of linguistics, but an emergent body of psycholinguistic and neurocognitive studies seek to examine the cognitive and neural mechanisms associated with the comprehension and production of code-switched sentences. In this talk, I will exemplify this approach by discussing two lines of research. The first line of research explores the cognitive correlates of the triggering hypothesis, originally developed on the basis of linguistic corpus research, positing that code-switches are more likely to occur in the presence of language-ambiguous words such as cognates. The second line of research focuses on cognitive mechanisms associated with the comprehension and production of code-switched sentences. Even though bilinguals typically report that switching occurs automatically and requires no cognitive effort, psycholinguistic studies show that switching between languages often incurs a measurable processing cost. I will discuss behavioral and neural evidence showing that switching direction (switching from the first language to the second language, or vice versa) and accented speech modulate switching costs when bilinguals read or listen code-switched sentences. Altogether these studies attest to the value of integrating cross-disciplinary approaches to gain more insight into the linguistic, cognitive, and neural mechanisms of code-switching.
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