Codeswitching as Projection of Bilingual Lemmas in Contact

Longxing Wei


Unlike most previous studies of Codeswitching (CS) focused on describing surface configurations of switched items (i.e., where CS is structurally possible) or the switched items (i.e., what items from another language can be switched), this paper explores formulation processes of bilingual speech and the nature of the bilingual mental lexicon and its activity in CS. More specifically, it applies the Bilingual Lemma Activation Model (Wei, 2002, 2006b) to the data drawn from various naturally occurring CS instances. It claims that the mental lexicon does not simply contain lexemes and their meanings, but also lemmas, which are abstract entries in the mental lexicon that support the surface realization of actual lexemes. Lemmas are abstract in that they contain phonological, morphological, semantic, syntactic and pragmatic information about lexemes. It further claims that lemmas in the bilingual mental lexicon are language-specific and are in contact during a discourse involving CS at three levels of abstract lexical structure: lexical-conceptual structure, predicate-argument structure, and morphological realization patterns. The CS instances described and analyzed in this paper provide evidence that the bilingual speaker’s two linguistic systems are unequally activated in CS, and CS is an outcome of bilingual lemmas in contact.

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