Doctoral Dissertation Research: Using eye-tracking to study auditory comprehension in codeswitching: Evidence for the link between production and comprehension

Project: Research project

Project Details


Bilinguals in the presence of other bilinguals engage in a linguistic skill known as codeswitching, defined as the fluid alternation between two or more languages within the same conversation (e.g. 'El niño está reading el book'). Once thought to be a sign of lack of competence in either language, three decades of research has revealed that codeswitching is systematic and not random. Previous research has mainly studied the production of codeswitching both from theoretical and sociolinguistic perspectives, leaving the comprehension of codeswitched speech an understudied area of inquiry. Yet there are critical consequences for the comprehension system. Whereas production is under the control of the speaker, a listener must seamlessly integrate multiple languages in real time in order to successfully comprehend codeswitched speech.

Jorge Valdés Kroff, under the supervision of Drs. Paola Dussias and Chip Gerfen, will conduct a series of experiments to investigate whether codeswitches that are more frequent in production are easier to comprehend for bilinguals. They will capitalize on the presence of grammatical gender in codeswitched noun phrases to investigate this question and will use an eye-tracking methodology known as the visual world paradigm. Participants are shown objects in a visual scene while listening to a phrase that names one of the objects. By examining the pattern of eye movements, researchers are able make inferences on the timecourse of comprehension of speech.

This line of research provides an ideal testing ground for examining the link between production and comprehension by specifically testing the hypothesis that language use and exposure have critical consequences for how the comprehension system processes language. Furthermore, the focus on Spanish-English bilinguals in the U.S. will provide important information on a vastly underrepresented yet increasingly visible sector of our society with implications for language policy in education and cognition in general.

Effective start/end date9/1/118/31/13


  • National Science Foundation: $12,000.00


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