Intra-speaker variation in Chinese–English code-switching: The interaction between cognitive and contextual factors

Hong Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Aims and objectives: This study examines intra-speaker variation in code-switching (CS) by comparing the frequency and pattern of CS across two different interaction modes (interview speech and online posting) based on the same individuals. This study also explores the reasons why these speakers exploit their linguistic repertoire variably in different modes. Methodology: I interviewed 40 Chinese–English bilinguals based in London and collected their speech data by recording the semi-structured interviews. Written data were obtained by collecting the participants’ posts on Sinaweibo, a popular Chinese social media. A detailed questionnaire was also administered among the participants to gather information on their language attitudes and other social backgrounds. Data and analysis: For each participant, 30 minutes of the interview were analyzed and 50 posts were chosen for written CS analysis. Quantitative analyses were performed to describe the frequency and pattern of CS. The use of CS across interaction modes was further compared and analyzed against the specific characteristics of each mode and also against the participants’ language attitudes. Findings: Results of quantitative analyses show that these participants used significantly more amount and more complex pattern of CS in their online posting. The suggested reason points to an elevated processing demand which is related to the nature of bilingualism and the level of synchronicity of interaction mode. Results of qualitative analyses also suggest that the participants’ positive attitudes towards CS and English language, both overtly expressed and covertly implied, contributed to the varying degree of CS use. Originality: This study is among the first attempts to compare CS data across different interaction modes based on same individuals. Comparative data of this kind are quite scarce in the international literature. Significance/implications: The findings highlight and provide insights into the dynamic interactions between social, cognitive, and situational factors under the surface of linguistic practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-762
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese–English code-switching
  • attitudes
  • cognition
  • interaction mode Chinese Scholarship Council
  • intra-speaker variation

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