Morphological awareness among heritage language learners of Arabic

Morphological awareness among heritage language learners of Arabic

First Author: Nour Kweider -- Carnegie Mellon University
Keywords: Morphological Awareness, Arabic, Minority learners, Reading development
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: This is an exploratory study investigating the development of morphological awareness (MA) among heritage language learners (HLLs) of Arabic. MA is critical for learning to read, especially for Arabic learners because of the writing system’s complex morphological system. This becomes more of a concern for HLLs who, due to their limited print exposure, may not have the opportunity to develop sufficient MA. Three research questions are asked: Do HLLs show implicit MA during word recognition? Do HLLs show explicit MA of isolated words? Is there a relationship between explicit MA and reading accuracy and speed? Methods: To answer the research questions, 31HLLs ages 10-17 completed two tasks: 1)Participants were asked to read 80 Arabic words that varied in their morphological structure (bimorphemic&monomorphemic), lexicality (real&pseudowords) and vowelization (vowelized&unvowelized). Words were controlled for number of letters, morphemes, and syllable length. Both reading speed and accuracy were measured. 2)Participants were asked to extract the root morpheme from 20 morphologically complex words. Results: A paired t-test revealed that the participants read the bimorphemic words significantly faster than the monomorphemic words. The results were consistent across pseudowords, real words, and unvowelized words suggesting that the participants may have some implicit MA. However, the participants were only 35% accurate in their ability to extract the root morpheme, suggesting very low explicit MA of isolated words. Finally, while explicit MA did not significantly correlated with word reading speed, it did however seem to moderately correlate with word reading accuracy. Implications: The study suggests that although the HLL seem to show some sensitive of morphological structures in Arabic, their limited print exposure seems to lead to limited explicit MA impacting reading accuracy. The study suggests explicit instruction of morphological structures may benefit HLLs