Skip to main content Accessibility help

A milestone study: Structured variability as the key to unraveling (contact-induced) language change



Despite increasing attention to bilingualism – conferences, publications, grants – linguists are as far as ever from reaching consensus. Is code-switching the alternation between two equally activated languages or is it the insertion of elements from a source language into a recipient language? Can and should we distinguish borrowing and code-switching of single words? Is there grammatical convergence between bilinguals’ two languages and does code-switching promote it? Since the first accounts of the structure of code-switching in the 1970s, the same questions have been readdressed with astoundingly little, if any, cumulative advances. Scientific progress has been obstructed by polemic debate, often fueled by elicited judgments, which may display random error (Labov, 1996), or reports of the behavior of stray individuals, which are uninterpretable in the absence of knowledge of the systematic community pattern (Labov, 2006/1966, p. 5).



Hide All
Bills, G., & Vigil, N. (2008). The Spanish language of New Mexico and southern Colorado: A linguistic atlas. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.
Bybee, J. (2010). Language, usage and cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grosjean, F. (1998). Studying bilinguals: Methodological and conceptual issues. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1, 131149.
Heine, B., & Kuteva, T. (2005). Language contact and grammatical change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Labov, W. (2006/1966). The social stratification of English in New York City (2nd edn.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [1st edition 1966]
Labov, W. (1996). When intuitions fail. Chicago Linguistic Society, 32, 77106.
Labov, W. (2001). Principles of linguistic change (vol. 2): Social factors. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Poplack, S. (1987). Contrasting patterns of code-switching in two communities. In Heller, M. (ed.), Aspects of multilingualism: Proceedings from The Fourth Nordic Symposium on Bilingualism, 1984, pp. 5177. Uppsala: Borgströms, Motala.
Poplack, S., & Malvar, E. (2007). Elucidating the transition period in linguistic change: The expression of the future in Brazilian Portuguese. Probus, 19, 121169.
Poplack, S., & Meechan, M. (1998). Introduction: How languages fit together in codemixing. International Journal of Bilingualism, 2 (2), 127138.
Poplack, S., Zentz, L., & Dion, N. (2011). Phrase-final prepositions in Quebec French: An empirical study of contact, code-switching and resistance to convergence. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, doi:10.1017/S1366728911000204. Published by Cambridge University Press, 11 August 2011.
Sankoff, D. (1988). Sociolinguistics and syntactic variation. In Newmeyer, F. J. (ed.), Linguistics: The Cambridge survey (vol. 4), pp. 140161. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sankoff, D., Poplack, S., & Vanniarajan, S. (1990). The case of the nonce loan in Tamil. Language Variation and Change, 2 (1), 71101.
Torres Cacoullos, R. (2009). Variation and grammaticisation: The emergence of an aspectual opposition. In Tsiplakou, S., Karyolemou, M. & Pavlou, P. (eds.), Language variation – European perspectives II, pp. 215224. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Torres Cacoullos, R., & Aaron, J. (2003). Bare English-origin nouns in Spanish: Rates, constraints and discourse functions. Language Variation and Change, 15 (3), 289328.
Torres Cacoullos, R., & Travis, C. (2011). Using structural variability to evaluate convergence via code-switching: Priming and the structure of variable subject expression. International Journal of Bilingualism, 15 (3), 241267.
Travis, C. (2007). Genre effects on subject expression in Spanish: Priming in narrative and conversation. Language Variation and Change, 19 (2), 101135.
Weinreich, U. (1963). Languages in contact. The Hague: Mouton.
Weinreich, U., Labov, W., & Herzog, M. (1968). Empirical foundations for a theory of language change. In Lehmann, W. P. & Malkiel, Y. (eds.), Directions for historical linguistics, pp. 95188. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed