Inter-sentential Code-switching and Language Dominance in Cantonese–English Bilingual Children


  • Chit Fung Lam University of Manchester
  • Stephen Matthews University of Hong Kong



code-switching, code-mixing, language dominance, Cantonese-English bilingual, bilingual children, MLU


This paper examines the relationship between language dominance and the under-investigated topic of inter-sentential code-switching in Hong Kong Cantonese–English bilingual children. Longitudinal data for six children showing different dominance patterns were analysed. MLU differentials (Yip & Matthews, 2006) were adopted to measure dominance based on five criteria: methodological compatibility, typological comparability, gradient measurement, variance validity, and multifaceted compatibility. Our results showed that bilingual children produced more inter-sentential code-switching in the context of their non-dominant language and less in their dominant-language context. We account for this asymmetry in relation to mechanisms of inhibitory control (Gross & Kaushanskaya, 2015). Further, we propose that intrasentential and inter-sentential code-switching each have a different status in bilingual children’s developing grammar, underlining the methodological importance of separating the two constructs in future investigations. We also suggest that, in societies where intra-sentential code-switching is a social norm, inter-sentential code-switching could serve as signs of early bilinguals’ dominance status.


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How to Cite

Lam, Chit Fung, and Stephen Matthews. 2020. “Inter-Sentential Code-Switching and Language Dominance in Cantonese–English Bilingual Children”. Journal of Monolingual and Bilingual Speech 2 (1):73-105.