Doctoral Dissertation Research: The Psycholinguistic Status of Lone English-Origin Nouns in Spanish: Integrating Sociolinguistic Approaches

Project: Research project

Project Details


It is estimated that 53 million Americans speak Spanish, the majority of whom are bilingual. Spanish-English bilingualism has become a hallmark of communities across the U.S., from the growing Cuban-American population in Miami, Florida, to the long-established Mexican-American communities throughout the Southwest, to the population of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Across these communities, there is a common linguistic practice that plays a central role in bilingualism research: language mixing. Defined as the simultaneous use of two languages within a single conversation, language mixing is viewed by some as haphazard or indicative of incompetence. However, linguistic research has demonstrated that language mixing is structured and rule-driven, and that accomplishing it requires great skill in both languages. Despite its ubiquity across bilingual communities the world over, however, linguists have yet to agree on what counts as actual instances of language mixing. Likewise, while much is known about the social aspects of language mixing, research has only begun to explore the psychological and cognitive characteristics of language mixing.

The dissertation research supported by this award combines approaches from different subdisciplines in linguistics to provide a clearer understanding of how bilinguals combine their two languages. The project focuses on the use of single English nouns of English embedded in otherwise Spanish sentences--so-called 'lone items'. By bringing together the rich source of knowledge on the use of lone items in bilingual speech and modern psychological techniques, the project will examine how lone items are processed and comprehended, and how sensitive bilinguals are to grammatical changes in the use of lone items. Although linguistic understanding of bilingualism has improved greatly over the past several decades, heavy stigma still surrounds the use and mixing of two or more languages. The present research will contribute to the growing body of research showing that language mixing is a skill, and has social, psychological, and cognitive characteristics that influence human language understanding.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date9/1/182/28/23


  • National Science Foundation: $17,096.00


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