Code-switching in the narratives of dual-language Latino preschoolers

Emily Halpin, Gigliana Melzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to explore the use of code-switching in the narratives of dual-language Latino preschoolers, specifically by examining its incidence, types, functions, and grammaticality. Previous work has investigated code-switching in younger children and in older children and adults, but relatively little work has investigated code-switching during the preschool years, an important time for dual-language development. This study tracked the code-switching of 39 Latino DLL preschoolers over three time points: the end of each of their two preschool years, and the beginning of their kindergarten year. At each time point, children shared a wordless picture book narrative. Code-switching in their narratives was coded for incidence, type, function, and grammaticality. Results showed that the number of children who code-switched was relatively small and stable over time, and that most code-switches occurred from Spanish to English. One-word switches, mostly nouns, were the predominant type of code-switching across years. Children used code-switching to serve a variety of functions, and almost all switches adhered to grammatical rules. Results suggest that the preschool age is an important developmental period for code-switching, in which children’s code-switches are simultaneously reflective of those of younger children and associated with more complexity in function and grammaticality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1271-1287
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2021


  • Childhood bilingualism
  • bilingual students
  • code-switching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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