Second-language writing in university-level basic language programs: A survey of student and instructor beliefs

Co-authored article published in Foreign Language Annals.

The majority of US university students studying foreign languages are enrolled in introductory courses that are typically part of a coordinated curriculum. Such courses conventionally include the assessment of second language (L2) writing skills. However, given that these assessments can be broadly conceived and vary by program, their design and implementation are subject to differing opinions and beliefs from the stakeholders involved. In an effort to better understand how their views of L2 writing assessments overlap and/ or diverge, the present study examined instructor (N = 28) and student (N = 183) beliefs in Spanish language programs at three public US universities using an online Likert‐scale and ranked‐choice questionnaire. Results revealed that although there was misalignment regarding the pedagogical purpose of such assignments, in general there was broad agreement among the two groups, including the use of a writing‐to‐learn approach to develop both specific and broad linguistic skills.

doi: 10.1111/flan.12609

Preposition stranding in Spanish-English code-switching

Article published in Languages.

This study tests the acceptability of preposition stranding in the intrasentential code- switching of US heritage speakers of Spanish. Because languages vary when extracting determiner phrases from prepositional phrases, known as preposition stranding or p-stranding, a contrast arises for Spanish–English bilinguals. English allows p-stranding, but in Spanish the preposition is traditionally pied-piped with the DP. Heritage speakers of Spanish, though, have shown variability, with child sequential bilinguals requiring said pied-piping, but simultaneous bilinguals allowing p-stranding in Spanish. Participants (n = 24) completed a written acceptability judgment task with a 7-point Likert scale. The task included code-switched sentences (n = 16) with p-stranding, switching from either English to Spanish or vice versa, with comparison monolingual equivalents for Spanish (n = 8) and English (n = 8) included as well. The results found that the simultaneous bilinguals accepted p-stranding in both languages, while also showing no restriction in either code-switching condition. Child sequential bilinguals, however, showed the expected monolingual distinction between Spanish and English, and p-stranding was only accepted with Spanish determiner phrases extracted from an English prepositional phrase (i.e., Spanish-to-English). These findings support the previously reported differentiation between simultaneous and child sequential bilinguals regarding p-stranding, while expanding it to code-switching.

doi: 10.3390/languages7010045

Adverbs in Spanish-English code-switching: Comparing verb raising and non-raising

Article published in the International Journal of Bilingualism.

Using generative syntactic theory regarding verb raising, predictions are made about adverb position in intra-sentential Spanish– English code-switching. Since both languages allow for non-raising, pre-verbal adverbs should be acceptably switched. However, since verb raising is only available in Spanish, post-verbal adverbs should only be allowed with a Spanish finite verb.

Spanish–English early bilinguals (n=24) completed a written acceptability judgment task with a 7-point Likert-type scale. The Spanish–English code-switched sentences contained a finite verb switched with a post-verbal or pre-verbal adverb. In addition, comparison sets of monolingual equivalents were tested, targeting adverb order in Spanish and English.

A total of 192 judgments were included in the analysis, and z-scores of the mean ratings provided by the participants were calculated. After a descriptive analysis of the results compared language and adverb order, statistical analyses were conducted via analyses of variance (ANOVAs).

Participants showed a preference for non-raising in English, while they accepted both orders in Spanish, but only with adverbs of completion and manner. For code- switching, non-raising was always acceptable, but verb raising varied. The availability of switched non-raising directly follows from the literature. However, the language of the finite verb did not predict availability of verb raising in code-switching. The results suggest that the language of the adverb is crucial to the availability of switching, not solely the verb.

The status of adverbs in code-switching has been left relatively unexplored. This study provides important details regarding adverb position both in mixed Spanish–English utterances and in monolingual contexts for this particular bilingual population.

These findings have a broader impact by providing data about adverb-position preferences in Spanish for a different community of speakers. In particular, it shows even more variability in the idiosyncratic behavior of different adverbs in Spanish.

doi: 10.1177/13670069211057955

Subject-predicate code-switching: Testing the need of a matrix language through embedding

Book chapter published in the edited volume Hispanic linguistics: Current issues and new directions.

There is continued debate on what determines the rule-governed behavior of intrasentential code-switching. Central to this debate is whether it is essential to differentiate between the languages involved, i.e., a matrix language and an embedded language. In favor of such an approach is Myers-Scotton’s (1993, 2002) Matrix Language Frame Model, whereas MacSwan’s (1999, 2014) Minimalist approach to code-switching operates independently of such a notion. To compare these two frameworks, a written Acceptability Judgment Task was completed by highly proficient Spanish-English bilinguals. The results suggest that the (un)grammaticality of the subject-predicate switch in embedded contexts does not align with the predictions made by the proposal by Jake (1994), an analysis that operates under the Matrix Language Frame Model. Proposals within the Minimalist approach to code-switching, both van Gelderen and MacSwan (2008) and González-Vilbazo and Koronkiewicz (2016), however, are effective at predicting grammaticality.

doi: 10.1075/ihll.26.12kor

Control stimuli in experimental code-switching research

Article published in Languages.

The current study investigates whether there is variation among different types of control stimuli in code-switching (CS) research, how such stimuli can be used to accommodate heterogeneity, and how they can also be used as a baseline comparison of acceptability. A group of native Spanish–English bilinguals (n = 20) completed a written acceptability judgment task with a 7-point Likert scale. Five different types of control stimuli were included, with three types considered to be completely acceptable (complex-sentence switches, direct-object switches, and subject–predicate switches) and two types considered to be completely unacceptable (pronoun switches and present–perfect switches). Additionally, a set of present–progressive switches were included as a comparison, as their acceptability status is still actively debated. The participants as a whole exhibited the expected grammatical distinctions among the control stimuli, but with a high degree of individual variability. Pronoun switches and auxiliary verb switches were rated significantly lower than the complex-sentence switches, direct-object switches, and subject–predicate switches. These results show that control stimuli can also establish a baseline comparison of acceptability, and recommendations for inclusion in experimental CS research are provided.


Rethinking and shifting discourses and practice of “testing”: From accuracy to engagement with situated contexts

Co-authored book chapter published in the edited volume Pathways to paradigm change: Critical examinations of prevailing discourses and ideologies in second language education.

The chapter presents a reflective analysis of the discourse and practices regarding the written test in three coordinated introductory/intermediate language programs (French, German, and Spanish) at a large public university. Written tests that students complete in class are specifically targeted because this type of assessment tends to reflect traditional ideologies and practices, focused on measuring accuracy and declarative knowledge, at odds with calls for teaching (and assessing) language and culture as integrated and situated practices (Kramsch, 2014; MLA, 2007; National Standards, 2015). This chapter examines how the collective imagined conceptualizations of paper-based written tests affect discourse, design, and Graduate Teaching Assistants’ (GTAs) professional development. The analysis starts by considering the terminology used in each program, as it conveys specific ideologies about testing. To evaluate how successful the programs’ written tests are in reflecting the pedagogical approach, their role and position are examined, followed by a comparative analysis of three recent tests. The contribution then goes on to describe the current procedures for written test development and offers both a reflection of challenges encountered and possibilities for written tests in coordinated language programs going forward. The chapter concludes with general recommendations to engage into a rethinking and reframing of what testing language in the classroom means.

Modality in experimental code-switching research: Aural versus written stimuli

Co-authored book chapter published in the edited volume Code-switching – Experimental answers to theoretical questions: In honor of Kay González-Vilbazo.

Various methodological concerns are specific to code-switching research; however, the modality of experimental stimuli has yet to be thoroughly investigated. This study explicitly tests if the mode of presentation does in fact affect participants’ judgments in Spanish-English code-switching using two different syntactic phenomena: (i) pronouns and lexical DPs, and (ii) wh-movement. The results are parallel, but not identical for the two modalities. We found no difference on a global level, indicating that written code-switched stimuli do not produce depressed ratings. We found a few individual differences when looking at specific structures within the two phenomena. In those cases, the aural condition enhanced the ratings of more acceptable sentences. Crucially, these differences did not affect the interpretation of the results.