Reading and Writing

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 99–132 | Cite as

The contribution of phonological and morphological awareness in Chinese–English bilingual reading acquisition

  • Candise Y. Lin
  • Chenxi Cheng
  • Min WangEmail author


The current study examined the contribution of cross-language phonological and morphological awareness to reading acquisition in bilingual children. Participants were 140 children (M age = 8.26 years) between Grades 1–4 who learned Chinese as their first language and English as their second language. Awareness of phoneme, onset-rime, compound structures and polysemy (i.e. words with multiple meanings) were measured using conceptually comparable tasks in both languages. Oral vocabulary, single word reading, and reading comprehension were also assessed. Path analysis revealed significant direct effects from Chinese rime awareness to both English word reading and reading comprehension. English phoneme awareness also had a significant direct effect on Chinese word reading. There was a significant direct effect from Chinese polyseme identification to English reading comprehension. Awareness of compound structure in one language also had indirect effects on reading outcomes in the other language via within-language compound structure awareness. These finding provided evidence for bi-directional cross-language phonological and morphological transfer in Chinese–English bilingual reading acquisition.


Phonological awareness Morphological awareness Cross-language transfer English reading Chinese reading 



The current study was based on part of the second author’s dissertation project under the third author’s supervision. The current study was supported by the NIH/NICHD R01 grant (R01HD048438) awarded to the third author. The first author took the leadership in re-analyzing the data and writing up the manuscript. We would like to thank Dr. Ji Seung Yang for her valuable advice and assistance in running the path analysis.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human Development and Quantitative MethodologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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