Do Language Features Predict Code-switching Patterns In Farsi And English Bilingual Speakers?

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Switching (hereafter CS) is acknowledged as a highly significant and prevalent conversational phenomenon in bilingual contexts and is generally defined as a sociolinguistic communication strategy which allows bilingual speakers to alternate between two or more languages during discourse (Garcia et al., 2018; Schau, Dellande & Gilly, 2007 & Vickers, Goble & Deckert, 2015). This planned or unplanned switch from one language to another occurs in many forms such as within sentences boundaries, within phrases, between words or between clauses and can have significant impacts on bilingual speakers (Riehl, 2005 & Schau et al., 2007).

According to extensive research conducted, bilingual speakers must acquire strong cognitive abilities and flexibility in order to utilize both their first language and their second language interchangeably or simultaneously (Duran, 1994 & Reverberi et al., 2015). Without this cognitive ability, flexibility or language control, bilingual speakers will be unable to co - ordinate or switch dialects regardless of how proficient or fluent they may be (Garcia et al., 2018 & Khateb, Shamshoum & Prior, 2017). It is highly evident that there has been immense national development as well as international progress in the field of CS. In fact, extensive research has been conducted on CS worldwide and has observed its impacts on multiple languages globally.

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Garcia, et al (2018) examined highly proficient Spanish and English bilingual speakers and results illustrated that CS occurrences significantly increases when bilingual speakers identify with the same linguistic and cultural background as other speakers. In addition, CS can likewise be triggered by poor language competence, speech disfluency, difficulties in communicating and word retrieval failure from the mental lexicon (Heredia & Altarriba, 2001). This was examined in Malaysian and English bilingual speakers, Spanish and English bilingual speakers and German and English bilingual speakers (Azlan & Narasuman, 2013; Heredia & Altarriba, 2001 & Riehl, 2005).

An insightful finding within the literature was that a strong correlation between CS and speaker emotion exists. Words and phrases with greater emotional weight can ultimately trigger and predict CS patterns in bilingual speakers, specifically terms of endearment and insults (Caldwell-Harris, 2008). However, not many studies have examined whether language features predict or trigger CS patterns in bilingual speakers and very limited studies have observed Farsi and English bilingual speakers. Therefore, the present research will determine whether language features such as Filled Pauses and Discourse Markers do predict CS patterns in Farsi and English bilingual speakers.

In the following research proposal, Filled Pauses will refer to instances where speakers utilize short utterances or words such as “um” and “uh”. Similarly, Discourse Markers will refer to short verbal expressions and speech irregularities such as “so” (Barr & Seyfeddinipur, 2010). Furthermore, the specific CS patterns that will be observed during this study are Tag Switching, Inter – Sentential Switching and Intra – Sentential Switching (Azlan & Narasuman, 2013). The aims of the present research proposal will determine and examine the following:

  • Do filled pauses and discourse markers predict CS occurrences in Farsi and English bilingual speakers
  • Is CS triggered and predicted by the speakers emotion?
  • What useful approaches can we implement to help bilingual speakers communicate more effectively?


During discourse, bilingual speakers may often find themselves experiencing extreme difficulties in maintaining fluency or co – ordinating both their first language and their second language. Speech disfluency, speech irregularities, pauses and hesitations all have a severe and harmful impact on the language competence and comprehension processes for bilingual speakers (Barr & Seyfeddinipur, 2010). In addition, such speech disfluencies and speech irregularities can result in detrimental impacts such as poor language competence, speech hesitations, repetitions, filled pauses or discourse markers (Barr & Seyfeddinipur, 2010). When faced with these challenges, bilingual speakers tend to code - switch in order to enhance their communication abilities and language competence (Heredia & Altarriba, 2001). This highlights that conducting research on CS is highly significant as it addresses all the gaps and limitations that still remain in the literature. In addition, it allows rich and insightful data to be obtained which can be utilized to help and support bilingual speakers with communication difficulties.

CS occurrences have been extensively researched in various bilingual communities and by numerous researchers throughout literature. Findings have revealed that almost all instances of CS are unintentional and involuntary (Riehl, 2005). This means that the mental lexicon of one language can completely “shut down” or “switch off” within bilingual speakers leading them to alternate to the mental lexicon of their second language. This can be extremely detrimental to the bilingual speaker as it assumes that a linguistic or conceptual gap exists within them leading others to believe that the speaker is less fluent, unintelligent, language incompetent and not verbally expressive enough (Duran, 1994 & Riehl, 2005). By conducting CS studies, negative stigmas can be erased, and beneficial approaches can be implemented to help bilingual speakers communicate more effectively, reinforcing its significance.

As underlined by Riehl (2005), CS occurrences have been researched widely, however, these studies have been limited to certain bilingual environments only and not all bilingual contexts or settings. This underlines a major gap existing in literature which requires immediate attention (Eldridge, 1996). Eldridge (1996) examined CS in students within school classrooms and made two significant observations. One, CS occurrences were all intentional and two, there was no empirical evidence supporting that CS is a sign of unintelligence or language inefficiency. This contradicts the findings of Duran (1994) and Riehl (2005) thus illustrating the vital need for greater research that is more innovative, novel and that can produce more reliable and precise findings. This present study acknowledges this issue hence it will be innovative by observing bilingual speakers within their households. This will offer a greater understanding of the causes of CS, its motivations and its impact (Eldridge, 1996).

A large amount of studies conducted on Bilingualism focuses on CS in bilingual speakers and a significant progress has been made, however, the study of language features influencing or triggering CS in bilingual speakers has been overlooked in literature and under – represented (Riehl, 2005). Therefore, the present research proposal will aim to investigate whether language features such as Filled Pauses and Discourse Markers do in fact predict CS patterns in Farsi and English bilingual speakers. The aims of this research proposal is set apart from previous literature therefore it will be extremely novel and the study itself focuses on a new area of research therefore it will also be highly innovative.

Farsi and English bilingual speakers have been insufficiently researched within the literature and not much attention has been given to these two languages in previous studies. However, the present study will bridge this gap that exists by examining Farsi and English bilingual speakers specifically, thus it may produce ground breaking results. Furthermore, the design and methods of this research is highly innovative and differs greatly from the design and methods of previous studies conducted. Participant observations in previous studies would generally be conducted within a lab however in this study, observations will be conducted within participant households. In addition, no previous studies have conducted participant observations and participant interviews together however, this study implements both methodologies together. This can produce greater results that are more reliable and will also allow the researcher to obtain qualitative and rich information from the interviews.


The following research is a qualitative longitudinal study that will critically examine Farsi and English bilingual speakers within a 12 month time frame. During this time frame, observations and associations will be made between multiple factors which will allow us to examine whether a code – switch occurred or not, what specific pattern of CS occurred and whether a language feature preceded the code – switch or not. Initially, this study aimed to examine fifty Farsi and English bilingual speakers, however due to the limited time period this was later reduced to only thirty participants. This ensures feasibility and more reliable results.

All thirty participants will be selected using a purposive sampling strategy and the selection criteria will be strict in order to ensure greater accuracy and validity. This means that participants must be:

  • Fluent Farsi and English bilingual speakers. Fluency is measured by speech proficiency in this study; all participants must be highly proficient and competent in speaking and understanding both Farsi and English.
  • Fluent in Farsi as their native and first language and fluent in English as their second language.
  • Fifteen participants will be male bilingual speakers and fifteen participants will be female bilingual speakers.
  • Aged between twenty to forty years old. Any bilingual speakers younger or older will not be selected.


A total of thirty highly proficient and fluent Farsi and English bilingual speakers will be selected to participate in this study. It may be extremely difficult to select thirty participants from one single household and selecting all participants from one family may cause potential limitations to the research and results. Therefore to prevent any possible limitations, six households will be included in this study and from this, five participants will be selected from each household.

Data will be collected via Participant Observations and ethnographic Participant Interviews after consent from all participants has been obtained. Observations will take place within each household by the researcher. Each time participants code – switch the researcher will immediately record it down on paper. This will then be critically analyzed to determine which pattern of CS occurred more frequently and whether the code – switch was preceded by a filled pause or discourse marker. This research acknowledges that conducting participant observations within households may be a potential limitation to the study. Participants will be aware that they are being observed and this may negatively interfere or influence results, it may even prevent natural CS occurrences. However, it is the best option as observing participants within a lab may have an even greater negative impact on the research.

Following this process, the researcher will then conduct interviews for each participant within the same environment that observations took place. The interviews will provide rich and insightful information regarding why participants code – switched, were they aware of CS, why did the code - switch occur in a specific pattern and how strong participant emotions were during the switch. This is extremely significant as it will determine whether the results of this study is consistent with previous findings or whether it confirms that language features do in fact predict CS patterns in bilingual speakers.


This research addresses the Australian Government’s Science and Research Priorities as well as Macquarie University’s five strategic research priorities by proposing effective tools and interventions to assist and improve the overall health and wellbeing of bilingual speakers globally. In addition, this study addresses the gaps in literatures and can guide future researchers in determining greater and more appropriate interventions and management options that best meet the needs of bilingual speakers.

The results gathered from this research will contribute immensely to existing literature and will have numerous national, economic, environmental and social benefits. Language features predicting CS patterns in bilingual speakers have not yet been widely researched therefore, the findings from this study will be extremely insightful, not only for linguistic researchers but for bilingual speakers and families as well. The following study extends from previous literature and opens up a new area of research thus enhancing our understanding and knowledge of linguistics.

Research has vividly exemplified that speech disfluencies, speech irregularities, pauses and hesitations during communication can all have severe and harmful implications to bilingual speakers. It can lead to low self – esteem, lack of confidence, negative feelings of embarrassment due to communication difficulties and social isolation (Barr & Seyfeddinipur, 2010). A high percentage of the bilingual population are experiencing these difficulties and challenges therefore, by implementing effective tools and useful resources to help bilingual speakers communicate more effectively, these negative impacts can be reduced, and bilingual speakers will be able to lead better and healthier lifestyles.


  1. Azlan, & Narasuman. (2013). The Role of Code-switching as a Communicative Tool in an ESL Teacher Education Classroom. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 90, 458-467.
  2. Barr, D. J., & Seyfeddinipur, M. (2010). The role of fillers in listener attributions for speaker disfluency. Language and Cognitive Processes, 25(4), 441-455.
  3. Caldwell-Harris, C. (2008). Language research needs an “emotion revolution” and distributed models of the lexicon. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 11(2), 169-171.
  4. Duran, L. (1994). Toward a better understanding of code switching and interlanguage in bilinguality: Implications for bilingual instruction. The Journal of Educational Issues of Language Minority Students, 14(2), 69-88.
  5. Eldridge, J. (1996). Code-switching in a Turkish secondary school. ELT journal, 50(4), 303-311.
  6. García, P. B., Leibold, L., Buss, E., Calandruccio, L., & Rodriguez, B. (2018). Code-Switching in Highly Proficient Spanish/English Bilingual Adults: Impact on Masked Word Recognition. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 61(9), 2353-2363.
  7. Heredia, R. R., & Altarriba, J. (2001). Bilingual language mixing: Why do bilinguals code-switch?. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10(5), 164-168.
  8. Reverberi, C., Kuhlen, A., Abutalebi, J., Greulich, R. S., Costa, A., Seyed-Allaei, S., & Haynes, J. D. (2015). Language control in bilinguals: Intention to speak vs. execution of speech. Brain and language, 144, 1-9.
  9. Riehl, C. M. (2005). Code-switching in bilinguals: impacts of mental processes and language awareness. In Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on Bilingualism (pp. 1945-1960).
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  11. Vickers, C., Goble, R., & Deckert, S. (2015). Third party interaction in the medical context: Code-switching and control. Journal of Pragmatics, 84, 154-171.
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Do Language Features Predict Code-switching Patterns In Farsi And English Bilingual Speakers? (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
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