Research Topic

Behavioral and Neurophysiological Approaches to Code-Switching and Language Switching

About this Research Topic

One of the unique characteristics of bilinguals is that they can freely switch between languages, both between and within utterances.

The spontaneous mixing of languages is generally described as Code-Switching (CS) . Research evidence accumulated from naturalistic corpora reveals that CS ...

One of the unique characteristics of bilinguals is that they can freely switch between languages, both between and within utterances.

The spontaneous mixing of languages is generally described as Code-Switching (CS) . Research evidence accumulated from naturalistic corpora reveals that CS practices differ widely between speech communities, depending on typological differences between languages, sociolinguistic characteristics of bilingual communities and depth of language contact.

Information about the variability in naturalistic CS patterns is crucially important for psycholinguistic studies of CS that aim to explain how bilinguals can keep their languages separate in some conversations, whilst switching freely between languages in other contexts.

Current models of bilingual speech processing assume that attentional control mechanisms are needed to enable bilinguals to switch between languages. Some studies on the relationship between CS and attentional mechanisms have found that CS practices modulate performance on inhibitory control tasks, while other studies have failed to reveal a relationship between CS and attentional processes.
Further evidence is therefore needed to study the causes of these inconsistencies, particularly from language combinations that are less widely studied in psycholinguistic approaches to CS.

A new line of inquiry focuses on the neurophysiological correlates of CS with the aim of analyzing brain reactions to CS in real time. These studies have the potential to shed more light on the psychological reality of different types of CS, on the magnitude of the processing cost involved in CS, and on the role of variables that may modulate the processing cost of CS, such as speakers’ relative proficiency in the two languages, the direction of the switch (i.e. from L1 into L2 or vice versa), and the typological difference between the languages (processing CS in closely related languages vs in structurally different languages). Specifically, ERP studies can be used to gain insights into the cognitive processes used in CS.

The aim of this Research Topic is to bring together interdisciplinary evidence from different strands of research, to inform experimental approaches to code-switching (switching between languages in naturalistic contexts) and to language switching (experimentally induced switching between languages).

We particularly welcome studies involving:

a) a wide range of so far under-researched languages (not involving Indo-European languages);

b) analyses of a range of different CS types (not just single nouns or insertions of nouns in a sentence);

c) behavioral or neurophysiological evidence of the ways in which bilinguals produce and process CS;

d) investigations of the relationship between executive functions and CS.

We welcome contributions from researchers working with informants from a wide range of sociolinguistic backgrounds and age groups. Detailed information about the characteristics of the participants and their languages (including their proficiency in both languages and their relative use of both languages) will need to be provided.


Keywords: Code-Switching, Language Switching, Executive Functions, Experimental Approaches, Switching Costs


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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13 January 2020 Manuscript

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Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

13 January 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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