Plurilingual Code-Switching between Standard and Local Varieties

A Socio-Psycholinguistic Approach

by Dino Selvaggi (Author)
©2017 Thesis 380 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 229


This book presents a comparative study on plurilingual code-switching (CS) in Italy, Croatia and Scotland-UK, based on Italian in contact with four standard varieties (Spanish, English, Philipino and Croatian) and five non-standard varieties (Arbereshe, Occitan, Calabrese, Istrovenetian and Chakavski).
It intends to fill a gap in the literature by proposing an interdisciplinary perspective, as most studies are concentrated on bilingual CS and are grounded just in one approach (mostly sociolinguistic or psycholinguistic); it also presents a new mixed key for CS data analysis, going beyond the traditional neat dichotomies defining CS as «acceptable or grammatical vs unacceptable or ungrammatical».
A brand-new model, the Integrated Model of Plurilingual Code-Switching (IMPCS), which recommends the use of five-graded scales in informants’ judgments, is proposed. It includes socio-psycholinguistics (social status and prestige of the languages in contact, official status of minority language, symmetrical/bi- or pluridirectional or asymmetrical/unidirectional kind of contact, language mode, claimed CS practice, explicit attitudes and acceptability judgements) and lexicalist variables.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • Acronyms
  • Introduction
  • 1. Language contact phenomena and code-switching
  • 1.1. Language contact phenomena and code-switching
  • 1.1.1. CS, transfer and interference
  • 1.1.2. CS and translanguaging
  • 1.2. Modalities: oral vs written CS
  • 2. Main approaches to CS
  • 2.1. The sociolinguistic approach towards bilingual CS
  • 2.1.1. Axes of variation
  • 2.1.2. Discourse strategies
  • 2.1.3. Triggering, convergence and CS constraints in the socio-structural approach
  • 2.1.4. CS and plurilingual language policy
  • 2.1.5. Sociolinguistic approach and language revitalisation
  • 2.2. The structural-grammatical approach towards bilingual CS
  • 2.2.1. The Matrix Language Frame Model
  • 2.2.2. Marked vs unmarked linguistic choices
  • 2.3. The psycholinguistic approach and key psycholinguistic variables
  • 2.3.1. Attitude and self-perception
  • 2.3.2. Acceptability, the optimality theory and the interface hypothesis
  • 2.3.3. Lexical access in bilinguals and plurilinguals
  • 2.3.4. The language mode concept
  • 2.3.5. Visual vs verbal stimulus
  • 2.4. The Lexicalist-Minimalist approach
  • 2.5. Other minimalist approaches and mixed approaches
  • 3. Bilingualism and CS in childhood
  • 3.1. Bilingual children profiles
  • 3.2. Parental input: educational strategies and children’s output
  • 3.3. The role of input and educational method
  • 3.4. CS in case of incomplete acquisition, attrition and ultimate attainment
  • 4. The Selvaggi–Plastina Integrated Model of Plurilingual Code-Switching (IMPCS)
  • 4.1. Adopting non-polarised judgement/evaluation scales
  • 4.2. The choice of a common code to test the model
  • 4.2.1. Properties of standard Italian
  • 4.3. The socio-psycholinguistic variables
  • 5. The empirical study
  • 5.1. Data collection and analysis: materials, instruments and procedure
  • 6. Case study 1: Calabrese Minorities
  • 6.1. Case study 1A. CS in Italian–Arbëreshë–Calabrese
  • 6.1.1. Research questions, method, materials, participants
  • 6.1.2. Claimed use of languages and attitudes on Arbëreshë–Calabrese–Italian CS
  • 6.1.3. Findings on self-perception of Arbëreshë borders, culture, identity, education and language policy
  • 6.1.4. Neuter attitude on intra-community Italo-Arbëreshë CS
  • 6.2. Case study 1B. Italian–Spanish CS
  • 6.2.1. Pragmatics, implicatures and CS
  • 6.2.2. Research questions, methods, materials, participants
  • 6.2.3. Claimed use of and attitudes on Spanish–Italian CS
  • 6.2.4. Implicature test on Spanish–Italian CS
  • 6.2.5. A production task on the active use of implicatures in Italian
  • 6.2.6. Negative impact of long Spanish–Italian code-switches on the perception of implicatures vs positive impact of short code-switches
  • 6.3. Case study 1C. The Italian–Occitan–Calabrese CS
  • 6.3.1. Research questions, methods, materials, participants
  • 6.3.2. Personal and linguistic biography of the Occitan informants
  • 6.3.3. Passive competence in other varieties, domains of use and attitudes on the principal languages
  • 6.3.4. Findings on attitudes towards Occitan, Italian and other languages
  • 6.3.5. Self-perception of Occitan–Italian–Calabrese CS
  • 6.3.6. Occitan–Italian bilingual education and language policy
  • 6.3.7. Occitan–Italian–Calabrese intrasentential CS as a frequent conversational strategy of mixed families and young people
  • 6.4. Case study 1D. The Italian–Filipino–English CS
  • 6.4.1. Research questions, methods, materials, participants
  • 6.4.2. Self-perception of active vs passive competence in Filipino, English, Italian and Calabrese and language mode
  • 6.4.3. Attitudes towards Filipino–English–Italian CS and acceptability judgements
  • 6.4.4. Positive attitudes towards Filipino–English–Italian CS and preference for Taglish intrasentential CS
  • 7. Case study 2: Italophone Minority of Istra
  • 7.1. Sociolinguistic situation of Italian and plurilingualism in Croatia
  • 7.1.1. Research questions, methods, materials, participants
  • 7.1.2. Italo-Croatian plurilingual repertoire
  • 7.1.3. Context and age of acquisition of Italian and Croatian
  • 7.1.4. Self-perception of frequency and domains of use of Italian, Croatian and other varieties
  • 7.1.5. Self-perception of awareness, frequency and socio-psycholinguistic variables of Italian–Istrovenetian–Croatian–Čakavski CS
  • 7.2. Lexical access study. Methods, materials and participants
  • 7.2.1. Overall response latency
  • 7.2.2. MRL per social class
  • 7.2.3. MRL per situational context
  • 7.2.4. MRL per communicative function
  • 7.3. Istra as an example of pluridirectional plurilingualism influencing CS and lexical access
  • 8. Case study 3: Italian–English Bilingual Children
  • 8.1. Sociolinguistic situation of English, Gaelic and Italian in Scotland
  • 8.2. Research questions, methods, materials, participants
  • 8.3. Acceptability ratings
  • 8.3.1. Raw frequencies per single child
  • 8.3.2. Mean acceptability ratings per bilingual children group
  • 8.4. Picture description task
  • 8.4.1. Expressive richness per child
  • 8.4.2. Picture description task. Borrowings and CS
  • 8.5. Impact of age of acquisition and educational method on acceptability ratings
  • 8.6. Impact of age of acquisition on CS usage
  • 9. Plurilingual CS: a comparison across minority communities
  • 9.1. The crucial socio-psycholinguistic variables
  • 9.2. Overall findings on attitudes, patterns and acceptability of plurilingual CS
  • 9.3. The IMPCS as a step forward towards a mixed socio-psycholinguistic-grammatical theory of plurilingual CS
  • References
  • Appendix 1
  • Appendix 2
  • Appendix 3
  • Appendix 4
  • Appendix 5
  • Appendix 6
  • Appendix 7
  • Appendix 8
  • Appendix 9
  • Index
  • Series index

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To plurilinguals.

To everyone who loves and who loved me.

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I would like to thank my PhD supervisor at the University of Calabria, Prof. Anna Franca Plastina, whose professional and human support has been crucial and essential throughout these three years.

I also wish to thank Prof. Robert Blagoni and his colleague Dr. Nada Poropat Jeletić for their help during my research stay at the University of Pula in Croatia, and Prof. Antonella Sorace for her assistance, advice and guidance during my research stay at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. I am also grateful to Dr. Michela Bonfieni, Dr. Gianpaolo Gobbo, Dr. Carlo Ladd, Dr. Lucrezia Sanes, Dr. Maria Garraffa and Dr. Anna-Biavati Smith who were extremely helpful in the design of the test for the English-Italian bilingual children and in discussing and clarifying other theoretical and methodological issues related to bilingualism in young children.

This work has also benefited from the expertise of Prof. Vincenzo Orioles, Prof. Jeff MacSwan, Prof. Jacqueline Almeida Toribio, Dr. Ludovica Serratrice, Dr. Ben Ambridge and Prof. Anna De Marco.

I dedicate this work to the memory of Prof. Cristina Piva, my supervisor for my master’s degree thesis, as the first professor who believed in me as a researcher.

I also thank my parents, brother and sister, and Antonio for their moral support.

I intend to express my deepest gratitude to all the participants and informants for their collaboration in making this research possible.

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A = Adjective

BADIP = Banca Dati dell’Italiano Parlato

BFLA = Bilingual First Language Acquisition

BIA = Bilingual Interactive Activation

BL = Both Languages at Home Children

C = Complement

CHL, = Computational System for Human Language

CMC = Computer-Mediated Communication

CP = Complementiser Phrase

CS = Code-Switching

DP = Determiner Phrase

EP = Event Phrase

EPP = Extended Projection Principle

ESB = Early Successive Bilinguals

G = Grammar

Ga, Gb = Grammar A, Grammar B

IMPCS = Integrated Model of Plurilingual Code-Switching

IP = Inflectional Phrase

L = Language

L.-M. A. = Lexicalist-Minimalist approach

L1–C1= First Language–First Culture

La = Language A

LA = Lexical Array

Lb = Language B

LF = Language Faculty

LF = Logical Form

LSB = Late Successive Bilinguals

M1 = Monolingual Passage Preceding the Code-Switched Passage

M2 = Monolingual Passage Following the Code-Switched Passage

MAXLCS = Maximum Length of Code-Switches in Words ← 15 | 16 →

ME = Mutual Exclusivity

MEANLCS = Mean Length of Code-Switches in Words

ML = Minority Language at Home Children

MLFM = Matrix Language Frame Model

MLU = Mean Length of Utterance

MMLU = Mean Mean Length of Utterance

MIND = Mean Number of Different Words

MP = Minimalist Program

MRL = Mean Response Latency

MTNW = Mean Total Number of Words

N = Noun

NB = Number of Borrowings

NCSB = Number of Code-Switches and Borrowings

NDW = Number of Different Words

NEI = Number of Errors and Interferences

NP = Noun Phrase

O = Object

OPOL = One-Parent–One-Language Children

OT = Optimality Theory

P = Preposition

P. A. = Psycholinguistic Approach

PCSB = Percentage of Code-Switches and Borrowings above the Total Number of Words

PF = Phonetic Form

PFIC = Phonetic Form Interface Condition

PS M. = Plastina–Selvaggi Model

S = Subject

S. A. = Sociolinguistic Approach

S.-G. A. = Structural-Grammatical Approach

SB = Simultaneous Bilinguals

SES = Socioeconomic Status

SLI = Specific Language Impaired Children

SPEC = Specifier

SVO = Subject-Verb-Object Word Order

T = Lexical Access Time

TAGs = Tree Adjoining Grammars

TDC = Typically Developing Children ← 16 | 17 →

TM = Theory of Mind Principle

TNW = Total Number of Words

TOT = Tip of the Tongue Phenomenon

UBILEC = Utrecht Bilingual Language Exposure Calculator Questionnaire

UG = Universal Grammar

V = Verb

VSO = Verb-Subject-Object Word Order

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This volume presents a comparative study on the actual uses, lexical access, attitudes, self-perception of plurilingual competence and patterns of acceptability of plurilingual code-switching (PCS) in three different countries. The term “plurilingual code-switching” will be extensively used in this work to indicate all the situations in which speakers use three or more varieties together within:

a) a conversation (oral CS);

b) written text (written CS);

c) songs, mobile- or computer-mediated communications (mixed or oral-written CS).

The common theme underlying this comparative analysis is the occurrence of the Italian language in contact with other varieties, which in some cases are minority languages (officially protected or not) and in other majority codes, sometimes autochthonous and even of recent creation.

Unlike previous studies on bilingual CS (Poplack 1980; Grosjean 2001), this study places specific emphasis on plurilingual CS with the purpose of proposing a new mixed key for data analysis, which goes beyond the traditional neat dichotomies defining CS as “acceptable or grammatical vs unacceptable or ungrammatical” (MacSwan 1999). The attempt here is to elicit more fine-grained and precise judgements on behalf of the informants. Previous attempts on this issue were correlated to the concept of gradience, whereas this research combines psycholinguistic methods with sociolinguistic tools in order to facilitate informants’ tasks and interviews and provide a new way of data collection and analysis.

Plurilingual CS occurs both in multilingual societies, where more than a variety is spoken as a consequence of historical settlement, and in societies believed to be multilingual, which are actually multilingual because of migrations. Globalisation pushes speakers, as Plastina and Selvaggi (2016) highlighted, in an increased expected use of “linguistic ← 19 | 20 → multicompetence in a wide range of communicative contexts in both formal and informal interaction”. Furthermore, CS “functions as a valuable resource, for instance, to renegotiate unshared languages among speakers, cross language barriers, or even to engage in intra-familial communication”.

The comparison is traced between five standard languages (Italian, Croatian, English, Spanish and Filipino) and five local varieties (Arbëreshë, Occitan, Calabrese dialect of the Cosenza province, Chakavian and Istrovenetian), and the CS combinations analysed are the following: Occitan-Calabrese-Italian, Filipino-English-Italian, Spanish-Italian, Croatian-Chakavian-Italian-Istrovenetian and English-Italian. As far as the single territorial contexts are concerned, three distinct research studies were conducted across three different countries, namely, Italy, Croatia and Scotland.

Starting from the province of Cosenza in Calabria, an investigation on attitudes towards CS was carried out among the historical minorities of the Arbëreshës (68 informants) and Occitans (16 informants). This was followed by a survey among the new minorities of the Filipinos (40 informants) in which CS acceptability was also targeted through a designed task. Another survey directed at the Latin American university students (18 informants) present on the University of Calabria campus aimed at testing their comprehension of implicatures in code-switched utterances. A qualitative methodology was adopted and the method of interviews was applied in the case of the Occitans, while in those of Spanish-Italian, Arbëreshë-Italian and Filipino-English-Italian CS, a quantitative methodology was employed for questionnaire data analysis.

In the second research context, the Istra region of Croatia, an investigation of bi-/trilingual speakers’ explicit attitudes towards CS and on their lexical access in spontaneous conversations was conducted (53 informants). In this specific case study, a qualitative (open interviews) and quantitative (time course of lexical access) methodology was introduced for data analysis.

In the third and final context, Scotland, focus was placed on the acceptability of CS and on its use in English-Italian bilingual children (17 participants) using the psycholinguistic technique of a picture description task after interviewing participants’ parents about their language input and their children’s bilingual exposure. ← 20 | 21 →

Studies on CS have been conducted for more than seven decades. Following Weinreich’s (1953) influential work, which paved the way for most research in the area of language contact, a number of studies have investigated both bilingualism and CS.

As bilingualism has finally been recognised as the major condition of the world’s population (Romaine 1995; Grosjean 2008), the practice of switching codes as its most characteristic phenomenon has received strong attention from a variety of approaches. It has thus finally lost its “path of deviant status to be fully integrated into the bilingual competence” (Toribio 2001; MacSwan 1999, 2000, 2004, 2014), becoming as important as stylistic variation and monolingual grammatical competence are to monolinguals.

Most research focused on bilingual CS, where just two codes are alternated in communicative interactions. Quite the opposite, not very much attention has been paid to PCS in a true “holistic” view, at the level of theoretical constructs, methodology of analysis and empirical studies. Lexicalists, sociolinguists and psycholinguists in their studies have considered CS mostly from single disciplinary standpoints, thus treating the phenomenon as discrete social, psychological or structural processes. In this fragmented perspective, focus has been placed either on the subjective aspects of code-switchers or on the social features of the speech communities where CS is regularly practised. Moreover, another research trend has shown a preference for laboratory experiments rather than for fieldwork, thus analysing code-switched samples out-of-context.

Therefore, this study intends to be a first step towards a paradigm shift in PCS studies, where laboratory methods and tools are combined with more empirical methods directed at capturing authentic tokens of plurilingual speech. Thus, an in-depth analysis of crucial sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic factors related to CS besides the more traditional grammatical-structural approach was implemented, as it is unarguable that a purely grammatical analysis of CS is not suitable, given that sociolinguistic and psychological variables affect the use of the standard and dialectal varieties both at the societal and at the inner individual level. Hence, this research work proposes a mixed socio-psycholinguistic method to assess the actual practice and attitudes towards CS, notwithstanding the use of instruments belonging to the minimalist and grammatical judgement framework. ← 21 | 22 →

The first part of this volume provides a critical literature review, which outlines the stances taken by a number of authors belonging to heterogeneous backgrounds, while at the same time highlighting the position adopted in the current work and its underlying rationale.

In the following methodological section, the theoretical background will be outlined in detail in order to present the method of data collection and analysis employed, with particular reference to the original contribution made in comparison to previous studies regarding CS attitude and acceptability judgements.

The central part of this book is based on three case studies: CS in Calabrese historical and new minorities, socio-psycholinguistic aspects of PCS in Croatia and CS in bilingual children in Scotland.

In all the studies, the language in contact is (standard) Italian and the languages together are used for a comparative analysis, which highlights the changing societal and official status of Italian. In the first area of Calabria, Italian is the majority language which shares its domains of use with five minority languages: Arbëreshë and Occitan (historical linguistic minorities) and Filipino, English and Spanish (new minorities). In the second area, the Istra region of the Republic of Croatia, Italian and the Istrovenetian dialect are minority languages, but only Italian has been granted an official status in the region. Although it is not the language of in-group communicative exchanges (Blagoni 2001, 2012; Scotti-Jurić and Ambrosi-Randić 2010), it also shares its communicative domains with the majority standard Croatian and the Chakavian/Čakavski dialect, thus contributing to create a situation of tri-/quadrilingualism.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (February)
varieties socio-psycholinguistic Italian plurilingual code-switching
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 371 p.

Biographical notes

Dino Selvaggi (Author)

Dino Selvaggi holds a PhD in Linguistics (University of Calabria, 2016) with a dissertation on plurilingual code-switching in standard and local varieties. Visiting Researcher at The University of Edinburgh in 2015 and at the University «Juraj Dobrila» of Pula in 2014, his research interests are the socio-psycholinguistic aspects of code-switching, plurilingualism and language policy.


Title: Plurilingual Code-Switching between Standard and Local Varieties