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M. Carmen Parafita Couto (Language Variation and Textual Categorisation (LVTC), Universidade de Vigo, & Center for Linguistics (LUCL), Leiden University) is the guest speaker at this ACLC seminar. The title of the talk is 'Code-switching across multilingual communities: Uniformity and variability'.

Event details of ACLC Seminar | M. Carmen Parafita Couto
Date 25 November 2022
Time 16:15 -17:30
Location P.C. Hoofthuis
Room PCH 1.15

Code-switching across multilingual communities: Uniformity and variability

One characteristic of multilingual speakers is that in everyday life they may integrate elements from their languages in the same sentence or discourse, a practice known as code-switching. On the basis of different methods and bilingual populations, various theoretical accounts of code-switching have been developed (Backus 2015,  Toribio 2017, Aboh 2019, López 2020, inter alia). Yet, while theories proliferate, cross-fertilization between them remains limited (Parafita Couto et al. in press). Hence, the question that guides this presentation is: how can we better understand the nature of mixed interactions, with a view to creating more accurate models of (multilingual) language competence?  I will consider code-switching from a comparative, cross-community perspective, taking into account not only the structural properties of the languages involved, but also the profile of the multilingual speaker and the historical and social settings of each multilingual community (cf. Aalberse et al. 2019).  I will show how a multimethod, comparative approach that integrates linguistic, psycholinguistic and social factors (Beatty Martínez et al. 2018) will help us draw a distinction between which code-switching patterns are uniform across communities and language combinations, and which patterns are variable. I will discuss to what extent multilingual speakers (i) produce strings that can be seen as having the same syntactic structure within and across communities, (ii) make the same linguistic judgments, and (iii) converge in their processing of these strings. I will discuss how social factors such as the specific sociocultural norms that have developed over the lifetime of a community, or language prestige, may influence the types of code-switched structures present in a particular community, and provide insight into how communities develop conventions and context-specific linguistic norms which speakers acquire. By presenting results stemming from different data collection mechanisms and language combinations, I will show how a multi-method approach provides a more robust overview of patterns underpinning code-switching behaviour, which will enable us to ultimately build better models of language competence.  I will finish with a call for rapprochement between domains and argue for open access corpora, which are often collected at public expense. The availability of these data will help us further unravel recent theoretical and empirical questions and criticisms being raised about the description and nature of code-switching grammars (e.g. Toribio 2017, 2018;  Parafita Couto et al. in press).


Aalberse, S., Backus, A. & Muysken, P. (2019). Heritage Languages: A Language Contact Approach. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Company. 302 pp.

Aboh, E. O. (2020). Lessons From Neuro-(a)-Typical Brains: Universal Multilingualism, Code-Mixing, Recombination, and Executive Functions. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, [488].

Backus, A. (2015). A usage-based approach to code-switching: The need for reconciling structure and function. In G. Stell & K. Yakpo (Eds). Code-switching between Structural and Sociolinguistic Perspectives (19-37). Berlin/Munich/Boston: De Gruyter.

Beatty-Martínez, A. L., Valdés Kroff, J. R., & Dussias, P. E. (2018). From the field to the lab: A converging methods approach to the study of codeswitching. Languages, 3(2), 1–19.

López, L. (2020). Bilingual grammar. Toward an integrated model. Cambridge University Press.

Parafita Couto, M.C. Greidanus Romaneli, M.  &Bellamy, K.  (in press) Code-switching at the interface between language, culture, and cognition. Lapurdum, IKER UMR 5478 CNRS.

Parafita Couto, M. C. Bellamy, K. & Ameka, F. (in press). Theoretical Linguistic Approaches to Multilingual code-switching. Cambridge Handbook of Third Language Acquisition and Processing. Eds.  Cabrelli, J. Chaouch-Orozco,A., González Alonso, J., Pereira Soares,, S., Puig-Mayenco, E. & Rothman, J. Cambridge University  Press.

Toribio, A. J. (2017). Structural approaches to code-switching: Research then and now. In R.E.V. Lopes, J. Ornelas de Avelar & S. M. L. Cyrino (Eds.) Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory 12. Selected papers from the 45th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL), Campinas, Brazil (pp. 213-233). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Toribio, A. J. (2018). The future of code-switching research. In López, L. (Ed.). Code-Swiching- Experimental Answers to Theoretical Questions: In honor of Kay González Vilbazo. Issues in Hispanic and Lusohpone Linguistics 19. John Benjamins, pp. 257–267.

About the ACLC seminar series

The ACLC seminar series is a two weekly lecture series organized by the ACLC, the Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication.

P.C. Hoofthuis

Room PCH 1.15

Spuistraat 134
1012 VB Amsterdam