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postgraduate thesis: Development of syntactic skills in relation to reading acquisition among Chinese-English bilingual students

TitleDevelopment of syntactic skills in relation to reading acquisition among Chinese-English bilingual students
Authors
Issue Date2015
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Siu, T. C. [蕭狄詩]. (2015). Development of syntactic skills in relation to reading acquisition among Chinese-English bilingual students. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5610969
AbstractThe ever-growing bilingual population worldwide has fuelled research on how a first (L1) and a second (L2) language interact to affect bilinguals’ language and reading acquisition. The present thesis centred on bilinguals’ syntactic skills in L1 Chinese and in typologically distant L2 English, and their cross-language interactions with reading development. Study 1 was a two-year longitudinal study in which 198 grade 1 and 203 grade 3 Hong Kong Chinese-English bilinguals participated. The children were assessed on syntactic skills and reading comprehension in Chinese and in English, nonverbal intelligence, working memory, language-related skills, and were re-tested after one year. Study 1A primarily examined the contrasting roles of morphosyntactic and word order skills in Chinese and English reading across grades. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that reading comprehension was differentially dependent on the two syntactic skills across ages and languages. Word order, relative to morphosyntactic skill, was critical to text comprehension at an earlier time. Word order was also more important to reading in Chinese, whereas reading in English gradually relied more on morphosyntactic skill. Study 1B used structural equation modelling to study the cross-language relationships. Mediation analyses showed that L1 Chinese syntactic skills cross-linguistically predicted L2 English reading comprehension over time; this prospective association was largely mediated by L2 English syntactic skills among the fourth graders. Further analyses suggested that word order skill was more transfer-ready than morphosyntactic skill, indicating an effect of linguistic distance upon language transfer. Beyond a mere cross-language syntactic transfer, Study 2 was designed to examine if bilinguals’ dual-language experience fostered further syntactic advancement via enhancing sensitivity to underlying syntactic structures. Participants in Study 2 comprised three age cohorts, including 69 primary school children, 56 secondary school adolescents, and 73 undergraduate adults. They were tested on morphosyntactic skill, word order skill, artificial syntax learning, and general cognitive abilities. Across the three cohorts, the Chinese-English bilinguals performed better than their English monolingual peers in acquiring a novel syntax and processing morphosyntax specific to English. The bilingual adults also performed better than their monolingual peers in manipulating language-specific word order. Moreover, the adolescent and adult bilinguals were also assessed on analogical reasoning; the bilinguals who were more skilled at abstracting similarities and differences between structures were generally superior in learning the new syntactic patterns and processing language-specific word order. Study 2 thus supports the structural sensitivity hypothesis that bilinguals’ advantage is not confined to knowledge and strategies specific to the additional language, but constitutes a more abstract representation of underlying linguistic structures in general. The findings collectively suggest how syntactic and reading skills can be developed in a bilingual learning context. Teachers may evoke L1 syntactic knowledge and map it onto L2 corresponding features to facilitate L2 reading. Drawing analogy between parallel L1 and L2 constructions works through making bilinguals taking linguistic structures more analytically. Building up L2 proficiency is also necessary because it is the prerequisite for reaping the bilingual benefits in maximising L2 learning. To conclude, skilled L2 reading necessitates a careful consideration of the cross-language syntactic development.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectLanguage acquisition
Bilingualism
Dept/ProgramPsychology
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/221221

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorSiu, Tik-sze, Carrey-
dc.contributor.author蕭狄詩-
dc.date.accessioned2015-11-04T23:12:01Z-
dc.date.available2015-11-04T23:12:01Z-
dc.date.issued2015-
dc.identifier.citationSiu, T. C. [蕭狄詩]. (2015). Development of syntactic skills in relation to reading acquisition among Chinese-English bilingual students. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5610969-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/221221-
dc.description.abstractThe ever-growing bilingual population worldwide has fuelled research on how a first (L1) and a second (L2) language interact to affect bilinguals’ language and reading acquisition. The present thesis centred on bilinguals’ syntactic skills in L1 Chinese and in typologically distant L2 English, and their cross-language interactions with reading development. Study 1 was a two-year longitudinal study in which 198 grade 1 and 203 grade 3 Hong Kong Chinese-English bilinguals participated. The children were assessed on syntactic skills and reading comprehension in Chinese and in English, nonverbal intelligence, working memory, language-related skills, and were re-tested after one year. Study 1A primarily examined the contrasting roles of morphosyntactic and word order skills in Chinese and English reading across grades. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that reading comprehension was differentially dependent on the two syntactic skills across ages and languages. Word order, relative to morphosyntactic skill, was critical to text comprehension at an earlier time. Word order was also more important to reading in Chinese, whereas reading in English gradually relied more on morphosyntactic skill. Study 1B used structural equation modelling to study the cross-language relationships. Mediation analyses showed that L1 Chinese syntactic skills cross-linguistically predicted L2 English reading comprehension over time; this prospective association was largely mediated by L2 English syntactic skills among the fourth graders. Further analyses suggested that word order skill was more transfer-ready than morphosyntactic skill, indicating an effect of linguistic distance upon language transfer. Beyond a mere cross-language syntactic transfer, Study 2 was designed to examine if bilinguals’ dual-language experience fostered further syntactic advancement via enhancing sensitivity to underlying syntactic structures. Participants in Study 2 comprised three age cohorts, including 69 primary school children, 56 secondary school adolescents, and 73 undergraduate adults. They were tested on morphosyntactic skill, word order skill, artificial syntax learning, and general cognitive abilities. Across the three cohorts, the Chinese-English bilinguals performed better than their English monolingual peers in acquiring a novel syntax and processing morphosyntax specific to English. The bilingual adults also performed better than their monolingual peers in manipulating language-specific word order. Moreover, the adolescent and adult bilinguals were also assessed on analogical reasoning; the bilinguals who were more skilled at abstracting similarities and differences between structures were generally superior in learning the new syntactic patterns and processing language-specific word order. Study 2 thus supports the structural sensitivity hypothesis that bilinguals’ advantage is not confined to knowledge and strategies specific to the additional language, but constitutes a more abstract representation of underlying linguistic structures in general. The findings collectively suggest how syntactic and reading skills can be developed in a bilingual learning context. Teachers may evoke L1 syntactic knowledge and map it onto L2 corresponding features to facilitate L2 reading. Drawing analogy between parallel L1 and L2 constructions works through making bilinguals taking linguistic structures more analytically. Building up L2 proficiency is also necessary because it is the prerequisite for reaping the bilingual benefits in maximising L2 learning. To conclude, skilled L2 reading necessitates a careful consideration of the cross-language syntactic development.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.subject.lcshLanguage acquisition-
dc.subject.lcshBilingualism-
dc.titleDevelopment of syntactic skills in relation to reading acquisition among Chinese-English bilingual students-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5610969-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplinePsychology-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-

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