Ariana Bancu gave presentation "Language selection in code-switching: An analysis of nouns from Romanian-English code-switching" at the SALSA conference, University of Texas, Austin, April 11-12, 2014.
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. Results also show that the degree of semantic equivalency between L1 and L2 nouns does not always play a role in the selection of L2 nouns, as some of the switched concrete and abstract nouns have a direct translation equivalent in Romanian.