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Jorge Valdes Kroff

Departments of Spanish and Linguistics
2017 Faculty Summer Fellow

Dr. Jorge Valdés Kroff, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics, used his 2017 Rothman Faculty Summer Fellowship to travel to the University of Granada. There he tested a group of Spanish-English bilingual speakers about how they use linguistic cues present in prior speech to anticipate upcoming code-switches into English in conversation.

Bilinguals in the presence of other known bilinguals frequently switch between languages within the same conversation, a linguistic phenomenon known as code-switching. Dr. Valdés Kroff’s research agenda uncovers what linguistic features may aid bilinguals in anticipating an upcoming code-switch between languages. Dr. Valdés Kroff’s research tested Spanish-English bilingual participants with questionnaires and audio samples from a naturalistic Spanish-English bilingual corpus developed in Miami, Florida. Bilingual participants were able to anticipate code-switches with a high percent of accuracy. This project sheds light on the remarkable bilingual ability to maintain fluid communication even while code-switching into another language.

Previous lab-based research on language and task switching has indicated that it should be less efficient and accurate to switch between languages in conversation. Sociolinguistic findings indicate, however, that bilingual code-switching is fairly ubiquitous. Dr. Valdés Kroff hypothesizes that this paradox is likely due to the artificiality of lab-based experiments, and that in actual language use, bilinguals use grammatical and social cues to anticipate code-switches. Dr. Valdés Kroff’s research offers a comparative approach between natural Spanish-English bilingual code-switchers (as in Miami, FL) and Spanish-English bilinguals who maintain a functional separation between their languages (as in Granada, Spain). Ultimately, this innovative project broadens the range of styles of communication studied in language research, thus highlighting the incredible flexibility of the bilingual mind.