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Identifying partially schematic units in the code-mixing of an English and German speaking child

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Abstract

Intra-sentential code-mixing presents a number of puzzles for theories of bilingualism. In this paper, we examine the code-mixed English-German utterances of a young English-German-Spanish trilingual child between 1;10 – 3;1, using both an extensive diary kept by the mother and audio recordings. We address the interplay between lexical and syntactic aspects of language use outlined in the usage-based approach (e.g. Tomasello, 2003). The data suggest that partially schematic constructions play an important role in the code-mixing of this child. In addition, we find, first, that the code-mixing was not mainly the result of lexical gaps. Second, there was more mixing of German function words than content words. Third, code-mixed utterances often consisted of the use of a partially schematic construction with the open slot filled by material from the other language. These results raise a number of important issues for all theoretical approaches to code mixing, which we discuss.
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Keywords: English–German; bilingual child; code-mixing; partially schematic constructions; usage-based

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 6, 2017

This article was made available online on March 7, 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "Identifying partially schematic units in the code-mixing of an English and German speaking child".

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