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On the emergence of bilingual code-switching competence

  • Almeida Jacqueline Toribio (a1)

Abstract

Code-switching among proficient adult bilinguals has been extensively studied, and it is by now universally concluded that intra-sentential code alternations are rule-governed and systematic, displaying dependency relations that reflect the operation of underlying syntactic principles. The central, guiding question to be addressed herein is whether and, if so, how second language learners acquire the knowledge that defines structural coherence and allows them to render well-formedness judgments for code-switched forms. This exploration takes on particular significance given that learners receive no evidence which could guide them in rendering such judgments, and therefore results consistent with those observed among competent bilinguals could be imputed to unconscious, abstract linguistic knowledge. The investigation thus proves doubly fruitful, in the discovery of developmental patterns and in the evaluation of linguistic-theoretical methodologies and constructs.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Almeida Jacqueline Toribio, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802-6203, USA. Email: ajt5@psu.edu

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