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Code-switching in parents’ everyday speech to bilingual infants

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2021

Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Canada Center For Research on Brain, Language and Music, Canada
Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Canada
Adriel John ORENA
Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Canada
Center For Research on Brain, Language and Music, Canada School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University, Canada
Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Canada Center For Research on Brain, Language and Music, Canada
*Address for correspondence: Lena V. Kremin, Concordia University - PsychologyMontreal, Quebec H4B 1R6, Canada, E-mail:


Code-switching is a common phenomenon in bilingual communities, but little is known about bilingual parents’ code-switching when speaking to their infants. In a pre-registered study, we identified instances of code-switching in day-long at-home audio recordings of 21 French–English bilingual families in Montreal, Canada, who provided recordings when their infant was 10 and 18 months old. Overall, rates of infant-directed code-switching were low, averaging 7 times per hour (6 times per 1,000 words) at 10 months and increasing to 28 times per hour (18 times per 1,000 words) at 18 months. Parents code-switched more between sentences than within a sentence; this pattern was even more pronounced when infants were 18 months than when they were 10 months. The most common apparent reasons for code-switching were to bolster their infant's understanding and to teach vocabulary words. Combined, these results suggest that bilingual parents code-switch in ways that support successful bilingual language acquisition.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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