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Bilingualism in the community: Code-switching and grammars in contact

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Yixin Zhang.

There will be a tea reception from 4:30pm.

Does the use of two languages by bilinguals inevitably bring about grammatical change? Does switching between languages serve as a catalyst in such change? It is widely held that linguistic code-switching inherently promotes grammatical convergence – languages becoming more similar to each other through contact; evidence for this, however, remains elusive. In this talk, we utilise variation patterns in speech to establish quantitative diagnostics of grammatical similarity and difference.

The community of study is a long-term Spanish-English bilingual community in northern New Mexico, USA , and the linguistic feature of interest is subject expression (variable in Spanish, but near obligatory in English). Using a new bilingual corpus of English and Spanish spontaneously produced by the same speakers, we show how bilinguals’ two languages differ from each other, and align with their respective monolingual benchmarks. We conclude, then that grammatical change through contact is not a foregone conclusion in bilingual communities, where speakers are adept at keeping their languages together, yet separate.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society (LingSoc) series.

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