Codeswitching in triadic conversational situations in early bilingualism

Heidi Rontu*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)


    The paper examines codeswitching in triadic conversational situations between two bilingual siblings and a parent, the mother. The children are bilingual in Finnish and (Finno-)Swedish. The study provides data on switching in an age span of 14 months between the ages of 2;8 and 5;8. The methods of the study are an analysis of the utterance production of the children, the amount and the Mean Length of Utterances (MLU). The siblings' codeswitching is investigated within a conversational analytic approach, that is, a sequential analysis of the interaction is carried out. This analysis also includes the parent's responses to the codeswitching. The findings show that the children's intersentential codeswitching has a contextualized meaning in the triadic situations. Much of the codeswitching amounts to what in general terms is competition of the parent's attention. The codeswitching has two main functions in the data. A switch to the noncontext language functions as a way to attain the mother's attention and to break off the conversation between the other sibling and the mother. The other function of codeswitching is to emphasize the child's own opinion or will. The emphasizing function is manifested in situations of disagreement and conflict with either the mother or the other sibling.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)337-358
    Number of pages22
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • codeswitching
    • early bilingualism
    • triadic parent-child-child conversation


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