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“La ranita se escapó from the jar”: Code-Switching Among Dominican Mothers and Their Preschool-Aged Children Alexandra Rodríguez New York University.

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Presentation on theme: "“La ranita se escapó from the jar”: Code-Switching Among Dominican Mothers and Their Preschool-Aged Children Alexandra Rodríguez New York University."— Presentation transcript:

1 “La ranita se escapó from the jar”: Code-Switching Among Dominican Mothers and Their Preschool-Aged Children Alexandra Rodríguez New York University

2 Acknowledgements Dr. Gigliana Melzi Dr. Margaret Caspe Jamie González & other members of the Child Language Research Team

3 Code-Switching Code-switching is typically defined as the alternate use of two languages in the same utterance or conversation. Code-switching is an essential aspect of bilingualism (Cheng & Butler, 1989). For the Latino community, this mixing of languages is commonly known as Spanglish. A popular belief is that code-switching reflects an inadequacy in competence and knowledge of one or both languages (Dávila de Silva, 1994).

4 Linguistic Practice of Code-Switching Code-switching is a ruled governed phenomenon that demonstrates advanced control of both languages (Hasbun, 2001). Code-switching occurs at all linguistic levels, including phonological, morphological, lexical, and syntactic (Cheng & Butler, 1989). Intersentential switch (i.e., at the sentence level) Intrasentential switch (i.e., at the clause level) Tag-switch (i.e., borrowing a tag phrase or word) One-word switch (i.e., content words such as nouns, adjectives and verbs). Past research has focused on examining the syntactic properties and social-pragmatic functions of code-switching.

5 Code-Switching in Mother-Child Discourse Most studies on code-switching have focused on adult conversations; very little is known about this linguistic practice in the early conversations of children and their important others. Mother-child discourse is essential for children’s language acquisition in general, and specifically for narrative development. Parental narrative elicitation is related to children’s later narrative discourse skills (e.g., Silva-Corvalán, 2003).

6 Research Questions 1. To what extent do bilingual Dominican mothers and their 4- year-old children code-switch during a semi-structured book reading task? 2. What functions might code-switching serve in the joint construction of the story? 3. Are there demographic differences in the amount of code- switching mothers and children use?

7 Participants Forty-three low-income Dominican mothers and their pre- school-aged children (25 boys and 18 girls) participated in the current study. All but 5 mothers were born in the Dominican Republic and had emigrated to the U.S. on average 15 years ago. All children were born in the U.S. Mothers ranged in age from 19 to 42 years (M = 31.56, SD = 5.94) and they had, on average, attended 12 years of formal school. Children ranged in age from 46 to 58 months (M = 50.83, SD = 3.93). Children’s language dominance was assessed using the James Language Dominance Test (1974). Approximately 50% of children were classified as Spanish dominant, 40% as fully bilingual, and 10% as mostly English dominant.

8 Procedure Parents were recruited from four different Head Start sites in Manhattan to participate in a larger project. Dyads were visited in homes and were asked to share a wordless picture book, Frog, Where Are You? (Mayer, 1969). No time restrictions were placed on the mother-child interaction. Conversations were audio-taped, transcribed and verified using a standardized system ( MacWhinney, 2000 ).

9 Coding Each instance of code-switching, defined as the use of both Spanish and English by the mother, child or both during one book reading interaction, was coded. Coding captured the following three features: (1) Who initiated the code-switching (i.e., mother or child) (2) Types of code-switching (i.e., intersentential, intrasentential, discourse, tag switch or a one-word switch). (3) Narrative pragmatic function (i,e., reported speech, elaboration, emphasis, topic shift, mode shift, internal state, general knowledge, teaching language, social or other).

10 Results Mothers code-switched between 0 and 53 times during the task (M = 9.93, SD = 10.9), and children code-switched 0 to 21 times (M = 3.5, SD = 4.56). Two mothers and 11 children did not code-switch. There was a significant correlation in the amount of code- switching between mother and child (r =.55, p =.01). The most common style of switching displayed by mothers (M = 59.26, SD = 34.88) and children (M = 36.38, SD = 38.69) was the one-word switch. The next most common type was code-switching at the discourse level for both mothers (M = 33.32, SD = 33.17) and children (M = 28.76, SD = 37.19). For both mothers and children, code-switches were most often used for general knowledge and social function purposes.

11 Mean Percentages for Functions Children Mothers

12 Mean Percentages for Types Mothers Children

13 Code-Switching by Demographic Variables  No gender differences were found.  The number of years living in the United States was not significantly associated with code-switching for either mothers or children. Level of education was positively associated with mothers’ usage of code-switching (r =.38, p =.013). Bilinguals tended to code-switch, on average, more than dyads classified as Spanish dominant only. Specifically, Spanish-dominant dyads were the least likely to code-switch during the book sharing task.

14 Discussion & Conclusions Results show that code-switching is a common occurrence in the Dominican community of NYC and elucidates on the ways in which code-switching occurs:  During early conversations, dyads prefer to use one-word code- switches, demonstrating that the mixing of languages mostly involves borrowing of lexical items from the second language.  Mothers and children used code-switching for different purposes. Whereas mothers mostly code-switched to interject, children code-switched when talking about school-related topics. Results corroborate findings from past studies on the trajectory of code-switching among bilinguals and show that code-switching is an advanced linguistic skill particular to the more proficient bilinguals and positively related to formal schooling. Future research should examine how code-switching influences young children’s language and literacy development in their later academic trajectories.

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