The relationship between bilingual experience and the development of morphological and morpho-syntactic awareness: a cross-linguistic study of classroom discourse

Tae Jin Kim, Li Jen Kuo, Gloria Ramírez, Shuang Wu, Yu Min Ku, Sharon de Marin, Alexis Ball, Zohreh Eslami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


This study aims to examine the relationship between bilingual experience and children's development of morphological and morpho-syntactic awareness. To capture both universal and language-specific bilingual effects, the study included four groups of participants: English-speaking children from a general education programme, Spanish-speaking and English-speaking children from a Spanish–English dual-language programme, and Chinese-speaking children from a Chinese–English dual-language programme. Findings from the analyses of teacher talk and measures of morphological and morpho-syntactic awareness show that certain aspects of morphological awareness, such as the ability to decipher derived words, were likely to be affected by both instruction and cross-language transfer, while others, such as cognate awareness, appeared to develop through mere exposure to two languages despite the absence of explicit instruction. Furthermore, morpho-syntactic awareness was mostly enhanced through greater emphasis on explicit instruction of morpho-syntactic knowledge; such effect was moderated by the syntactic complexity of teacher talk. These findings suggest that instead of typological distances of the languages, a constellation of factors uniquely characterises bilingual classroom experiences. The linguistic complexity of teacher talk and instructional emphasis may influence children's development of morphological and morpho-syntactic awareness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-354
Number of pages23
JournalLanguage Awareness
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes



  • Chinese–English dual-language programme
  • general education
  • morpho-syntactic awareness
  • morphological awareness
  • Spanish–English dual-language programme
  • teacher talk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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