Aleksandra Tomic: Effects of code-switching on the processing of emotional words

Effects of code-switching on the processing of emotional words

Aleksandra Tomic (UiT – Arctic University of Norway)

Many phenomena in psycholinguistics have been studied using artificial paradigms due to laboratory limitations. Code-switching, a highly socially regulated practice, may be one of the phenomena experimentally studied with the least regard for the environment it appears in and purposes it serves. Our research group includes sociolinguistic and corpus observations on code-switch patterns/functions in experimental studies to provide a fresh, more complete picture of the processing of code-switched speech. One of the outstanding questions on code-switching is why bilinguals code-switch so frequently if it causes slowdowns in processing. An initial Visual World Paradigm study, inspired by previous statistical corpus modeling work, showed that bilinguals use code-switches to help them predict lower frequency words. The study I will focus on in this talk examines the effects of code-switches on the processing of subsequent emotional words, using eye-tracking while reading. We find that processing a code-switch decreases the reading times for negative words compared to the unilingual condition. I discuss potential mechanisms for this beneficial effect. These studies suggest that subsequent processing benefits of code-switches override, or even stem from, initial slowdowns associated with the processing of code-switches. This approach shifts the focus from the code-switch costs to the benefits it may provide downstream and it represents a promising venue for the study of code-switch processing.

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