An Online (R)examination of Frequency and Context Effects in Code-switching using the Auditory Moving Window

In three experiments, using the auditory moving window task, bilinguals operating in single (English) or dual (Spanish and English) language communities listened to successive sound segments of sentences presented one at a time. In Experiments 1a-b, sentences were in Spanish and the critical target was either a code-switch (|pik(ə)ls|) or a borrowing, in which an English target was pronounced in Spanish (|pikos|). Experiments 2a-b compared code-switched versus non-switched targets within Spanish sentences. Experiment 3 used sentences in English and critical targets were in Spanish. Context (low/high constraint) and word frequency (low/high) were manipulated. Results for Experiments 1a-b revealed that code-switches took longer to process than borrowings. Taken together, findings from the three experiments suggested that code-switched language results in a processing cost in which the bilingual’s linguistic system demands more memory and time to successfully integrate the code-switched information into the sentence. Word frequency and context, as predicted by the featural restriction model, affected the processing of the code-switched targets.