The roles of metalinguistic skills in Chinese–English biliteracy development

  • Yang Cathy Luo
  • Poh Wee Koh
  • S. Hélène Deacon
  • Xi Chen


The study examined the role of phonological awareness and morphological awareness in concurrent and subsequent oral vocabulary among Chinese–English bilingual children who learned Chinese as their heritage language and English as their societal language. Ninety-one Chinese–English bilingual children in kindergarten and Grade 1 who were recruited from Chinese heritage language classes in Canada, participated in the study. They were tested twice, 1 year apart, on a battery of cognitive and literacy measures in Chinese and English. The results indicated that for oral vocabulary, morphological awareness was the only concurrent predictor in both languages. English morphological awareness made a direct contribution to English vocabulary measured a year later. By contrast, the contribution of morphological awareness to vocabulary in Chinese at Time 2 was indirect and mediated by vocabulary at Time 1. Phonological awareness did not make a significant contribution to vocabulary at Times 1 or 2 in either language. Our results highlight the importance of morphological awareness in oral vocabulary for children learning Chinese and English.


Biliteracy development Metalinguistic skills Morphological awareness Phonological awareness Chinese reading English reading 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yang Cathy Luo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Poh Wee Koh
    • 3
  • S. Hélène Deacon
    • 4
  • Xi Chen
    • 5
  1. 1.Hincks-Dellcrest Centre and Gail Appel InstituteUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  5. 5.Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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