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Priming of code-switches in sentences: The role of lexical repetition, cognates, and language proficiency*



In two experiments, we tested the role of lexical repetition, cognates, and second language (L2) proficiency in the priming of code-switches, using the structural priming technique. Dutch–English bilinguals repeated a code-switched prime sentence (starting in Dutch and ending in English) and then described a target picture by means of a code-switched sentence (also from Dutch into English). Low- and high-proficient speakers of L2 English were tested in Experiments 1 and 2, respectively. We found that the participants’ tendency to switch at the same position as in the prime sentence was influenced by lexical repetition between prime sentence and target picture and by the presence of a cognate in prime and target. A combined analysis showed that these lexical effects were stronger in the high-proficient than in the low-proficient L2 speakers. These results provide new insights into how language-related and speaker-related variables influence code-switching in sentences, and extend cognitive models of lexical and combinatorial processes in bilingual sentence production.


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Address for correspondence: Gerrit Jan Kootstra, Centre for Language Studies, Department of Linguistics, Radboud University Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9103, 6500 HD Nijmegen, the


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We thank Angelique Vedder and Nicole Swart for their help in data collection. We also thank David Green, Rob Hartsuiker and an anonymous reviewer for providing valuable comments on earlier versions of this article. The research reported in this paper was supported by a grant from the Behavioural Science Institute, awarded to Janet G. van Hell. Gerrit Jan Kootstra is now at Centre for Language Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen.



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