Skip to main content Accessibility help

Priming of code-switches in sentences: The role of lexical repetition, cognates, and language proficiency*



In two experiments, we tested the role of lexical repetition, cognates, and second language (L2) proficiency in the priming of code-switches, using the structural priming technique. Dutch–English bilinguals repeated a code-switched prime sentence (starting in Dutch and ending in English) and then described a target picture by means of a code-switched sentence (also from Dutch into English). Low- and high-proficient speakers of L2 English were tested in Experiments 1 and 2, respectively. We found that the participants’ tendency to switch at the same position as in the prime sentence was influenced by lexical repetition between prime sentence and target picture and by the presence of a cognate in prime and target. A combined analysis showed that these lexical effects were stronger in the high-proficient than in the low-proficient L2 speakers. These results provide new insights into how language-related and speaker-related variables influence code-switching in sentences, and extend cognitive models of lexical and combinatorial processes in bilingual sentence production.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Gerrit Jan Kootstra, Centre for Language Studies, Department of Linguistics, Radboud University Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9103, 6500 HD Nijmegen, the


Hide All

We thank Angelique Vedder and Nicole Swart for their help in data collection. We also thank David Green, Rob Hartsuiker and an anonymous reviewer for providing valuable comments on earlier versions of this article. The research reported in this paper was supported by a grant from the Behavioural Science Institute, awarded to Janet G. van Hell. Gerrit Jan Kootstra is now at Centre for Language Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen.



Hide All
Abutalebi, J., Cappa, S. F., & Perani, D. (2001). The bilingual brain as revealed by functional neuroimaging. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 4, 179190.
Arai, M., van Gompel, R. P. G., & Scheepers, C. (2007). Priming ditransitive structures in comprehension. Cognitive Psychology, 54, 218250.
Auer, P. (ed.). (1998). Code-switching in conversation: Language, interaction and identity. London: Routledge.
Baayen, R. H., Davidson, D. J., & Bates, D. M. (2008). Mixed-effects modeling with crossed random effects for subjects and items. Journal of Memory and Language, 59, 390412.
Baayen, R. H., Piepenbrock, R., & van Rijn, H. (1993). The CELEX lexical database (CD-ROM). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania, Linguistic Data Consortium.
Bates, D. M., Maechler, M., & Dai, B. (2007). lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes. R package version 0.999375-27.
Bernolet, S., Hartsuiker, R. J., & Pickering, M. J. (2007). Shared syntactic representations in bilinguals: Evidence for the role of word-order repetition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33, 931949.
Bernolet, S., Hartsuiker, R. J., & Pickering, M. J. (in press). Effects of phonological feedback on the selection of syntax: Evidence from between-language syntactic priming. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, doi:10.1017/S1366728911000162. Published online by Cambridge University Press, October 12, 2011.
Bock, J. K. (1986). Syntactic persistence in language production. Cognitive Psychology, 18, 355387.
Bock, J. K. (1989). Closed-class immanence in sentence production. Cognition, 31, 163186.
Bock, J. K., & Loebell, H. (1990). Framing sentences. Cognition, 35, 139.
Branigan, H. P., Pickering, M. J., & Cleland, A. A. (2000). Syntactic co-ordination in dialogue. Cognition, 75, B1325.
Broersma, M. (2009). Triggered codeswitching between cognate languages. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 12, 447462.
Broersma, M., & de Bot, K. (2006). Triggered codeswitching: A corpus-based evaluation of the original triggering hypothesis and a new alternative. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 9, 113.
Broersma, M., Isurin, L., Bultena, S., & de Bot, K. (2009). Triggered code switching Evidence from Dutch–English and Russian–English bilinguals. In Isurin, L., Winford, D., & de Bot, K. (eds.), Multidisciplinary approaches to code switching, pp. 103128. Amsterdam & Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
Bultena, S., Dijkstra, T., & van Hell, J. G. (2011). Modulated switch costs in bilingual sentence processing: Evidence from shadowing and self-paced reading. Ms., Radboud University Nijmegen.
Chang, F., Dell, G. S., & Bock, J. K. (2006). Becoming syntactic. Psychological Review, 113, 234272.
Christoffels, I. K., Firk, C., & Schiller, N. O. (2007). Bilingual language control: An event-related brain potential study. Brain Research, 1147, 192208.
Cleland, A. A., & Pickering, M. J. (2003). The use of lexical and syntactic information in language production: Evidence from the priming of noun-phrase structure. Journal of Memory and Language, 49, 214230.
Clyne, M. (1967). Transference and triggering: Observations on the language assimilation of postwar German-speaking migrants in Australia. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff.
Clyne, M. (1980). Triggering and language processing. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 34, 400406.
Clyne, M. (2003). Dynamics of language contact. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Corley, M., & Scheepers, C. (2002). Syntactic priming in English sentence production: Categorical and latency evidence from an Internet-based study. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9, 126131.
Costa, A., Caramazza, A., & Sebastián-Gallés, N. (2000). The cognate facilitation effect: Implications for models of lexical access. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 26, 12831296.
Costa, A., Pickering, M. J., & Sorace, A. (2008). Alignment in second language dialogue. Language and Cognitive Processes, 23, 528556.
Costa, A., & Santesteban, M. (2004). Lexical access in bilingual speech production: Evidence from language switching in highly proficient bilinguals and L2 learners. Journal of Memory and Language, 50, 491511.
Desmet, T., & Declercq, M. (2006). Cross-linguistic priming of syntactic hierarchical configuration information. Journal of Memory and Language, 54, 610632.
Deuchar, M. (2005). Congruence and Welsh–English code-switching. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 8, 255269.
Dijksterhuis, A., & Bargh, J. A. (2001). The perception–behavior expressway: Automatic effects of social perception on social behavior. In Zanna, M. P. (ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (vol. 33), pp. 140. New York: Academic Press.
Dijkstra, T., Miwa, K., Brummelhuis, B., Sappelli, M., & Baayen, R. H. (2010). How cross-language similarity and task demands affect cognate recognition. Journal of Memory and Language, 62, 284301.
Dörnyei, Z. (2003). Attitudes, orientations, and motivations in language learning: Advances in theory, research, and applications. Language Learning, 53 (S1), 332.
Ferreira, V. S., & Bock, J. K. (2006). The functions of structural priming. Language and Cognitive Processes, 21, 10111029.
Garrod, S., & Pickering, M. J. (2004). Why is conversation so easy? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 811.
Giles, H., Coupland, N., & Coupland, J. (1991). Accommodation theory: Communication, context, and consequence. In Giles, H., Coupland, J., & Coupland, N. (eds.), Contexts of accommodation: Developments in applied sociolinguistics, pp. 168. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gollan, T. H., & Acenas, L. A. R. (2004). What is a TOT? Cognate and translation effects on tip-of-the-tongue states in Spanish–English and Tagalog–English bilinguals. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30, 246269.
Green, D. W. (1998). Mental control of the bilingual lexico-semantic system. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1, 6781.
Green, D. W. (2011). Language control in different contexts: The behavioral ecology of bilingual speakers. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, article 103.
Gries, S. T. (2005). Syntactic priming: A corpus-based approach. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 34, 365399.
Hartsuiker, R. J., Bernolet, S., Schoonbaert, S., Speybroeck, S., & Vanderelst, D. (2008). Syntactic priming persists while the lexical boost decays: Evidence from written and spoken dialogue. Journal of Memory and Language, 58, 214238.
Hartsuiker, R. J., & Pickering, M. J. (2008). Language integration in bilingual sentence production. Acta Psychologica, 128, 479489.
Hartsuiker, R. J., Pickering, M. J., & Veltkamp, E. (2004). Is syntax separate or shared between languages? Cross-linguistic syntactic priming in Spanish–English bilinguals. Psychological Science, 15, 409414.
Hatzidaki, A., Branigan, H. P., Pickering, M. J. (2011). Co-activation of syntax in bilingual language production. Cognitive Psychology, 62, 123150.
Kootstra, G. J., van Hell, J. G., & Dijkstra, T. (2010). Syntactic alignment and shared word order in code-switched sentence production: Evidence from bilingual monologue and dialogue. Journal of Memory and Language, 63, 210231.
Kootstra, G. J., van Hell, J. G., & Dijkstra, T. (2011). You say tomato, I say TOMAAT: How socio-interactional and lexical factors influence code-switching in bilingual dialogue. Ms., Radboud University Nijmegen.
Kroll, J. F., Bobb, S. C., & Wodniecka, Z. (2006). Language selectivity is the exception, not the rule: Arguments against a fixed locus of language selection in bilingual speech. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 9, 119135.
Kroll, J. F., & Stewart, E. (1994). Category interference in translation and picture naming: Evidence for asymmetric connections between bilingual memory representations. Journal of Memory and Language, 33, 149174.
Kroll, J. F., van Hell, J. G., Tokowicz, N., & Green, D. W. (2010). The Revised Hierarchical Model: A critical review and assessment. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 13, 373381.
Levelt, W. J., Roelofs, A., & Meyer, A. S. (1999). A theory of lexical access in speech production. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 22, 138; discussion 38–75.
Loebell, H., & Bock, J. K. (2003). Structural priming across languages. Linguistics, 41, 791824.
MacSwan, J. (2000). The architecture of the bilingual language faculty: Evidence from intrasentential code switching. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 3, 3754.
Meara, P., Milton, J., & Lorenzo-Dus, N. (2001). LEX: The manual. Swansea: Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Wales Swansea.
Meijer, P. J. A., & Fox Tree, J. E. (2003). Building syntactic structures in speaking: A bilingual exploration. Experimental Psychology, 50, 184195.
Meuter, R. F. I., & Allport, A. (1999). Bilingual language switching in naming: Asymmetrical costs of language selection. Journal of Memory and Language, 40, 2540.
Michael, E. B., & Gollan, T. H. (2005). Being and becoming bilingual: Individual differences and consequences for language production. In Kroll, J. F. & de, A. M. B. Groot (eds.), Handbook of bilingualism: Psycholinguistic approaches, pp. 389407. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Moreno, E. M., Federmeier, K. D., & Kutas, M. (2002). Switching languages, switching palabras (words): An electrophysiological study of code switching. Brain and Language, 80, 188207.
Muysken, P. (2000). Bilingual speech: A typology of code-mixing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Myers-Scotton, C. (1993). Social motivations for codeswitching: Evidence from Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Myers-Scotton, C. (2002). Contact linguistics: Bilingual encounters and grammatical outcomes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Myers-Scotton, C., & Jake, J. L. (1995). Matching lemmas in a bilingual language competence and production model: Evidence from intrasentential code switching. Linguistics, 33, 9811024.
Ojima, S., Nakata, H., & Kakigi, R. (2005). An ERP study of second language learning after childhood: Effects of proficiency. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17, 12121228.
Pickering, M. J., & Branigan, H. P. (1998). The representation of verbs: Evidence from syntactic priming in language production. Journal of Memory and Language, 39, 633651.
Pickering, M. J., & Branigan, H. P. (1999). Syntactic priming in language production. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 3, 136141.
Pickering, M. J., Branigan, H. P., & McLean, J. F. (2002). Constituent structure is formulated in one stage. Journal of Memory and Language, 46, 586605.
Pickering, M. J., & Ferreira, V. S. (2008). Structural priming: A critical review. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 427459.
Pickering, M. J., & Garrod, S. (2004). Toward a mechanistic psychology of dialogue. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27, 169–90; discussion 190–226.
Poplack, S. (1980). Sometimes I'll start a sentence in Spanish Y TERMINO EN ESPAÑOL. Linguistics, 18, 581618.
Poulisse, N., & Bongaerts, T. (1994). First language use in second language production. Applied Linguistics, 15, 3657.
R Development Core Team (2008). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
Roelofs, A. (1992). A spreading-activation theory of lemma retrieval in speaking. Cognition, 42, 107142.
Santesteban, M., Pickering, M. J., & McLean, J. F. (2010). Lexical and phonological effects on syntactic processing: Evidence from syntactic priming. Journal of Memory and Language, 63, 347366.
Schober, M. F. (2006). Dialogue and interaction. In Brown, K. (ed.), Encyclopedia of language & linguistics (2nd edn., vol. 3), pp. 564571. Oxford: Elsevier.
Schoonbaert, S., Hartsuiker, R. J., & Pickering, M. J. (2007). The representation of lexical and syntactic information in bilinguals: Evidence from syntactic priming. Journal of Memory and Language, 56, 153171.
Szekely, A., Jacobsen, T., D'Amico, S. D., Devescovi, A., Andonova, E., Herron, D., et al. (2004). A new on-line resource for psycholinguistic studies. Journal of Memory and Language, 51, 247250.
Van Assche, E., Duyck, W., Hartsuiker, R. J., & Diependaele, K. (2009). Does bilingualism change native-language reading? Cognate effects in a sentence context. Psychological Science, 20, 923927.
van Beijsterveldt, L. M., & van Hell, J. G. (2009). Structural priming of adjective–noun structures in hearing and deaf children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 104, 179196.
van Hell, J. G., & de Groot, A. M. B. (1998). Conceptual representation in bilingual memory: Effects of concreteness and cognate status in word association. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1, 193211.
van Hell, J. G., & Dijkstra, T. (2002). Foreign language knowledge can influence native language performance in exclusively native contexts. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9, 780789.
van Heuven, W. J. B., & Dijkstra, T. (2010). Language comprehension in the bilingual brain: fMRI and ERP support for psycholinguistic models. Brain Research Reviews, 64, 104122.
Witteman, M. J. (2008). Lexical and contextual factors in code-switching: A behavioral and electrophysiological study. MSc thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen.


Priming of code-switches in sentences: The role of lexical repetition, cognates, and language proficiency*



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