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It’s not about switching a palabra: Bilingual experience modulates electrophysiological correlates of codeswitching

It’s not about switching a palabra: Bilingual experience modulates electrophysiological correlates of codeswitching
When: June 11, 2017
Where: University of Limerick, Ireland

PIRE fellow Anne Beatty-Martinez presents at the 11th International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB11).

Exposure-based models of processing posit that sensitivity to production patterns can constrain the comprehension system. Codeswitching serves to elucidate this relationship because codeswitching emerges in some bilingual communities but not in others. We examine whether bilinguals’ production choices predict comprehension performance. We recruited 22 Spanish-English codeswitchers in the US and 22 non-codeswitchers in Spain highly proficient in both languages. We examined the production and comprehension of mixed noun phrases (mixed NPs; elM forkM). Naturalistic corpora illustrate a preference for masculine determiners, regardless of the noun’s gender in Spanish. Conversely, switches involving feminine determiners are restricted to English nouns that are feminine in Spanish. We predicted that non-codeswitchers should be insensitive to this asymmetry whereas codeswitchers should show differential electrophysiological responses to rare (*laF forkM) versus frequent (elF forkM) codeswitches. Production was examined using a map task; comprehension was investigated in sentential contexts using event-related potentials. The same participants completed production and comprehension experiments. Results for production show that codeswitchers produced more mixed NPs than non-codeswitchers (B=2.28, SE=.36, z=6.38, p=.001), and these switches robustly reflected the aforementioned distributional asymmetry. In comprehension, the two groups differed in their processing of mixed NPs. While non-codeswitchers were insensitive to the distributional patterns of different codeswitches, codeswitchers exhibited greater processing difficulty (N400) to rare vis-à-vis frequent codeswitches (F(1,21)=19.77, p=.000, η2p=.49). These findings support our prediction that bilinguals’ comprehension of codeswitches is influenced by the distributional regularities they experience. Furthermore, we found that only non-codeswitchers displayed an early positivity (P2; F(1,21)=10.12, p=.004, η2p=.36) for switch vs no-switch comparisons (elM forkM; elM tenedorM). Importantly, codeswitchers did not exhibit such effects. Overall, our findings shed light on the production-comprehension link, and demonstrate how the correlates of codeswitching largely depend on bilinguals’ experience with distributional codeswitching regularities.