International Science Index


A Corpus-Based Analysis on Code-Mixing Features in Mandarin-English Bilingual Children in Singapore


This paper investigated the code-mixing features in Mandarin-English bilingual children in Singapore. First, it examined whether the code-mixing rate was different in Mandarin Chinese and English contexts. Second, it explored the syntactic categories of code-mixing in Singapore bilingual children. Moreover, this study investigated whether morphological information was preserved when inserting syntactic components into the matrix language. Data are derived from the Singapore Bilingual Corpus, in which the recordings and transcriptions of sixty English-Mandarin 5-to-6-year-old children were preserved for analysis. Results indicated that the rate of code-mixing was asymmetrical in the two language contexts, with the rate being significantly higher in the Mandarin context than that in the English context. The asymmetry is related to language dominance in that children are more likely to code-mix when using their nondominant language. Concerning the syntactic categories of code-mixing words in the Singaporean bilingual children, we found that noun-mixing, verb-mixing, and adjective-mixing are the three most frequently used categories in code-mixing in the Mandarin context. This pattern mirrors the syntactic categories of code-mixing in the Cantonese context in Cantonese-English bilingual children, and the general trend observed in lexical borrowing. Third, our results also indicated that English vocabularies that carry morphological information are embedded in bare forms in the Mandarin context. These findings shed light upon how bilingual children take advantage of the two languages in mixed utterances in a bilingual environment.

[1] S. N. Sridhar, K. K. Sridhar, “The syntax and psycholinguistics of bilingual code mixing,” Canadian Journal of Psychology Revue Canadienne De Psychologie, 1980, 34(34):407-416.
[2] V. Yip, and S. Matthews, “Code-mixing and mixed verbs in Cantonese-English bilingual children: input and innovation,” Languages, 2016, 1(1): 4.
[3] T. K. Bhatia, and W. C. Ritchie, “Social and Psychological Factors in Language Mixing,” In W. C. Ritchie and T. K. Bhatia (eds.), Handbook of Bilingualism, 2004, pp.336-352.
[4] K. Kohnert, D. Yim, K. Nett, P. F. Kan, and L. Duran, “Intervention with linguistically diverse preschool children: a focus on developing home language(s),” Language Speech & Hearing Services in Schools, 2005, 36(3), 251.
[5] L. Comeau, F. Genesee, and L. Lapaquette, “The modeling hypothesis and child bilingual codemixing,” International Journal of Bilingualism, 2003, 7(2), pp. 113-126.
[6] J. F. Hamers, and M. H. A. Blanc, Bilinguality and bilingualism. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 2000, pp.241-271.
[7] V. Yip, “Simultaneous Language Acquisition,” In François G. & Ping. The Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism. Malden, MA & Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013, pp.117-137.
[8] F. Grosjean, Life with two languages. An introduction to bilingualism Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,1982.
[9] J. Petersen, “Word-internal code-switching constraints in a bilingual child’s grammar,” Linguistics, 1988, 26(3), pp. 479-494.
[10] U. Lanvers, “Language alternation in infant bilinguals: a developmental approach to code switching,” International Journal of Bilingualism, 2001, 5(4), 437-464.
[11] Singapore Department of Statistics (DOS) Singapore Census of Population 2010: Statistical Release 1- Demographic Characteristics, Education, Language and Religion, 2010, Retrieved from
[12] R. Lass, Historical Linguistics and Language Change. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 1997, pp.189.
[13] S. Poplack “‘sometimes I’ll start a sentence in spanish y termino en espan’: toward a typology of code-switching,” CENTRO Working Papers, no. 4. Adults, 1979, 18(7-8), 83.
[14] M-S. Carol, Dueling languages: grammatical structure in codeswitching. Oxford University Press, 1997, 75-119.
[15] P. Bernardini, and S. Schlyter, “Growing syntactic structure and code-mixing in the weaker language: the ivy hypothesis,” Bilingualism, 2004, 7(1), 49-69.
[16] W. Y. Quin and F. Patrycia, “Challenging the ‘Language Incompetency Hypothesis’: Language Competency Predicts Code-Switching,” In Elizabeth Grillo, Kyle Jepson, & Maria LaMendola (Eds.), BUCLD 39 Online Proceedings Supplement. Massachusetts: Cascadilla Press. 2015.
[17] K. F. Cantone, Code-Switching in Bilingual Children; Springer: Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 2007.
[18] S. Gopinathan, “Preparing for the next rung: Economic restructuring and educational reform in Singapore,” Journal of Education and Work, 1999, 12(3), pp. 295-308.
[19] F. Genesee, “Early bilingual development: One language or two?” Journal of Child Language, 1989, 16(1):161-79.
[20] L. Comeau, F. Genesee, and L. Lapaquette, “The modeling hypothesis and child bilingual codemixing,” International Journal of Bilingualism, 2003, 7(2), pp.113-126.
[21] H. Min, “A case study on parental discourse strategies and a bilingual child’s code-mixing,” Bulletin of Educational Psychology, 2011, 43(1), pp.175-202.