Significant research has been done regarding the influence of age of acquisition (i.e., the age at which one is exposed to a second language (L2)) on L2 learning (e.g., Johnson & Newport, 1989; Bialystock & Hakuta, 1999). Some researchers have shown that bilinguals who have learned their second language early in life may differ in their fluency from bilinguals who learned their second language later in life (White & Genesee, 1996; Flege, 1999). Specifically, studies have suggested that bilinguals who have not acquired their L2 by puberty will never acquire native-like proficiency (Lenneberg, 1967); however, others claim that there is not one particular age after which native-like language proficiency cannot be achieved (Birdsong and Molis, 1998; Flege; 1999). However, little research has been done regarding the effect that age of acquisition has on how bilinguals code switch and what rules govern this code-switching. Early research by Poplack (1980) found that late (i.e., those who learned the L2 in adulthood), less fluent bilinguals had different code switching tendencies than early (i.e., those who learned L2 in childhood), more fluent bilinguals. Lipski (1985) suggested that early bilinguals will engage in intrasentential switching while late bilinguals will rarely do so. In the present study, 26 early and late Spanish-English bilingual speakers made acceptability judgments on intra- and intersentential switches. Results indicate that there is no statistical difference between early and late bilinguals when responding to whether a mix was good or bad, and how good or bad a mix was. There were, however, trends in the results which indicate that early bilinguals may respond faster to code switches than late bilinguals, suggesting that early and late bilinguals may process language differently. Further research is needed to confirm this finding.



College and Department

Humanities; Linguistics and English Language



Date Submitted


Document Type





code switching, age of acquisition, early, late, bilinguals, code mixing, Critical Period Hypothesis, bilingual language processing



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Linguistics Commons