How do derivational and compounding awareness in Chinese and English contribute to bilinguals’ comprehension?

How do derivational and compounding awareness in Chinese and English contribute to bilinguals’ comprehension?

First Author: Yaqi Shen -- Penn State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Amy Crosson
Keywords: Morphological Awareness, Reading comprehension, Chinese, English, Biliteracy
Abstract / Summary: 

Morphological awareness contributes to English reading comprehension for bilingual learners from diverse language backgrounds (McBride-Chang et al., 2005, Kieffer & Lesaux 2011, Zhang & Koda, 2011). Well-developed morphological processing in L1 or L2 may facilitate L2 reading comprehension. For Chinese-English bilinguals, compound words in English are especially salient, seemingly due to the prevalence of compounding in Chinese (Wang et al., 2006). This study investigates whether different types of morphological processing in L1 and L2 contribute to L2 reading comprehension for Chinese-English bilinguals. Participants were 48 seventh grade Chinese learners of English as a Foreign Language. Experimental assessments of derivational and compound morphology in both Chinese and English and a standardized English reading comprehension assessment were administered. We employed hierarchical linear regression modeling to estimate contributions of L1 and L2 morphology on L2 comprehension. With both English derivational and compound morphology included in the model, only compound awareness made a significant contribution to English comprehension (β = .509, SE = .247, p = .046). With Chinese derivational and compound morphology included, neither predicted English comprehension. Intriguingly, we noted that some participants’ responses to the English derivational morphology were inventive (e.g., “adventureful”), suggesting a need for alternative coding schemes to capture understanding of derivational relations. Findings showed that only English compound awareness, not derivational awareness, contributed to reading comprehension, thus contributing new evidence for the special role of compound awareness for Chinese-English bilinguals. However, neither type of morphological processing in Chinese contributed to English reading comprehension.