Ariana Bancu recently gave a presentation at the 22nd Symposium About Language and Society (also known as SALSA). SALSA is an annual symposium held at the University of Texas (Austin), that focusses on linguistic and sociolinguistic research. Ariana's presentation analyzed the patterns of code-switching observed in a conversational Romanian-English corpus. More specifically, she documents how the semantic relation between words in speakers' L1 (Romanian) and their L2 (Enlgish) influences the selection of code-switched items. Ariana's paper also appeared in the proceedings of the symposium and can be downloaded at this link. An abstract for the presesentation is included below.

Language selection in code-switching: An analysis of nouns from Romanian-English code-switching

Studies show that in bilinguals who use both of their languages actively, the representational systems are simultaneously active even when only one of these systems is being used (Marian & Spivey, 2004, Colomé, 2001). When both languages of a bilingual can be used in the same context code-switching (hereafter CS) may occur. In bilinguals, the activation of a concept spreads its activation to the words in both lexicons, and they compete in lexical selection (Colomé, 2001). When a parallel co-activated item in the non target language contains a meaning that is not included in the target language, CS takes place (Marian, 2009).

The purpose of the present study is to analyze code-switched nouns in a Romanian-English CS corpus and to identify the factors that may lie behind the selection of L2 nouns when speakers use their L1. The data come from recorded and transcribed conversations of five Romanian immigrants who have lived in the US for the past eight years of their lives. They use Romanian (L1) and English (L2) regularly. The question I address is whether switched English nouns occur in CS because they contain a meaning not covered by their Romanian counterpart.

All English nouns from the data were extracted and categorized by their degree of concreteness. Results show that both concrete and abstract L2 nouns are switched in similar proportions, indicating strong between-language competition in lexical selection during CS. The degree of semantic equivalency between L1 and L2 nouns influences the selection of L2 nouns.