The Development of Morphological Awareness in Young Bilinguals: Effects of Age and L1 Background Purpose Current understanding about the effect of first language (L1) background on morphological awareness (MA) development in those who are bilingual is largely limited to school-aged second-language learners. This study examined the development of MA in bilingual Mandarin–English (ManEngBi) and Spanish–English (SpaEngBi) children ages 4 to 7 years, whose L1 ... Research Article
Research Article  |   August 01, 2016
The Development of Morphological Awareness in Young Bilinguals: Effects of Age and L1 Background
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Boji Pak-Wing Lam
    University of Texas–Austin
  • Li Sheng
    University of Texas–Austin
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Li Sheng: li.sheng@austin.utexas.edu
  • Editor: Rhea Paul
    Editor: Rhea Paul×
  • Associate Editor: Margarita Kaushanskaya
    Associate Editor: Margarita Kaushanskaya×
Article Information
Development / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 2016
The Development of Morphological Awareness in Young Bilinguals: Effects of Age and L1 Background
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2016, Vol. 59, 732-744. doi:10.1044/2015_JSLHR-L-14-0171
History: Received June 24, 2014 , Revised May 29, 2015 , Accepted October 14, 2015
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2016, Vol. 59, 732-744. doi:10.1044/2015_JSLHR-L-14-0171
History: Received June 24, 2014; Revised May 29, 2015; Accepted October 14, 2015

Purpose Current understanding about the effect of first language (L1) background on morphological awareness (MA) development in those who are bilingual is largely limited to school-aged second-language learners. This study examined the development of MA in bilingual Mandarin–English (ManEngBi) and Spanish–English (SpaEngBi) children ages 4 to 7 years, whose L1 is predominated by compounding and derivation, respectively.

Method We targeted specific word formation rules that develop within different developmental time frames. Forty-two ManEngBi, 30 SpaEngBi, and 27 English monolingual children divided into 4- to 5-year-old and 6- to 7-year-old age groups produced English words using compounding, the derivational agentive –er suffix, and the derivational characteristic –y suffix for both real and novel word roots.

Results The characteristic –y suffix consistently elicited the poorest performance. This finding held true regardless of language group, age, or novelty of prompts. Both older SpaEngBi and English monolingual children outperformed older ManEngBi children in the characteristic –y suffix, whereas the three groups performed comparably on the other two rules at both age intervals. Error analysis further suggested influence of cross-linguistic features.

Conclusions L1 influence on English MA development is sensitive to the developmental time frame of word formation rules. Future studies on the development of MA in bilingual children should adopt a more fine-grained approach and include a wider age range.

Acknowledgments
This project was supported by a fellowship from the National Academy of Education and the Spencer Foundation to the second author. The authors thank the participants for volunteering their time and Andrea Hinnen, Diana Cruz, MaryAnn Flores, Aislynn Fulton, Brittany Rasansky, Ruei-An Shen, Ashley Pina, Fang Li, and other members of the Language Learning and Bilingualism Laboratory for assistance with stimulus design, data collection, and data analyses.
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