Why do bilinguals switch languages within a sentence? The present observational study asks whether word surprisal and word entropy predict code-switching in bilingual written conversation. We describe and model a new dataset of Chinese-English text with 1476 clean code-switched sentences, translated back into Chinese. The model includes known control variables together with word surprisal and word entropy. We found that word surprisal, but not entropy, is a significant predictor that explains code-switching above and beyond other well-known predictors. We also found sentence length to be a significant predictor, which has been related to sentence complexity. We propose high cognitive effort as a reason for code-switching, as it leaves fewer resources for inhibition of the alternative language. We also corroborate previous findings, but this time using a computational model of surprisal, a new language pair, and doing so for written language.
This paper explores the time course of lexical memory retrieval by modeling fluent language production. The duration of retrievals is predicted using the ACT-R cognitive architecture. In a large-scale observational study of a spoken corpus, we find that language production at a time point preceding a word is sped up or slowed down depending on activation of that word. This computational analysis has consequences for the theoretical model of language production. The results point to interference between lexical and phonological stages as well as a quantifiable buffer for lexical information that opens up the possibility of non-sequential retrievals.
Linguistic alignment between dialogue partners has been claimed to be affected by their relative social power. A common finding has been that interlocutors of higher power tend to receive more alignment than those of lower power. However, these studies overlook some low-level linguistic features that can also affect alignment, which casts doubts on these findings. This work characterizes the effect of power on alignment with logistic regression models in two datasets, finding that the effect vanishes or is reversed after controlling for low-level features such as utterance length. Thus, linguistic alignment is explained better by low-level features than by social power. We argue that a wider range of factors, especially cognitive factors, need to be taken into account for future studies on observational data when social factors of language use are in question.