Bilingual children’s comprehension of code-switching at an uninformative adjective

  • Lena V. Kremin orcid logo (Concordia University)
  • Amel Jardak (Concordia University)
  • Casey Lew-Williams (Princeton University)
  • Krista Byers-Heinlein (Concordia University)


Bilingual children regularly hear sentences that contain words from both languages, also known as code-switching. Investigating how bilinguals process code-switching is important for understanding bilingual language acquisition, because young bilinguals have been shown to experience processing costs and reduced comprehension when encountering code-switched nouns. Studies have yet to inves-tigate if processing costs are present when children encounter code-switches at other parts of speech within a sentence. The current study examined how 30 young bilinguals (age range: 37 – 48 months) processed sentences with code-switches at an uninformative determiner-adjective pair before the target noun (e.g., “Can you find le bon [the good] duck?) compared to single-language sentences (e.g., “Can you find the good duck?”). Surprisingly, bilingual children accurately identified the target object in both sentence types, contrasting with previous findings that sentences containing code-switching lead to processing difficulties. Indeed, children showed similar (and in some cases, better) comprehension of sentences with a code-switch at an uninformative adjective phrase, relative to single-language sentenc-es. We conclude that functional information conveyed by a code-switch may contribute to bilingual children’s sentence processing.

Keywords: code-switching, bilingualism, language processing, language acquisition, children

Published on
13 Sep 2023
Peer Reviewed