Investigating Spanish-English Code-Switching at the Auxiliary Phrase: Análisis de Estudiantes L2
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Code-switching is the mixing of two languages such that a word or phrase from one language is substituted for a word or phrase from another language. A code-switch can occur at different locations in a sentence or phrase. For example: sometimes I’ll start a sentence in English y termino en español ‘Sometimes I’ll start a sentence in English and end in Spanish.’ (Poplack, 2013, p. 1). This project examines Spanish-English intrasentential code-switches that occur at the auxiliary phrase with the goal of investigating whether low-proficiency second-language (L2) learners who are not code-switchers understand the difference between illicit and licit codeswitches. Illicit refers to ungrammatical code-switches whereas licit refers to grammatical codeswitches. More specifically, the objective of this project is to determine whether these two types of intrasentential code-switches are processed differently as shown by different patterns of reading times. The four conditions in this experiment compare sentences that are completely in English, sentences completely in Spanish, sentences with illicit (at the phrasal boundary) switches, and sentences with licit (between the auxiliary and the participle) switches. The data collected shows that there are statistically significant differences in reading times between the locations of the code-switch, indicating that students can distinguish between the different code-switches. A peculiar finding, however, is that students took longer to process the sentences in complete English than the sentences containing a code-switch, which might be due to the surprisal effect. The findings of this study have meaningful applications in better understanding bilingual cognition, especially as the bilingual population continues to grow in the United States.