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Language and Cognitive Aspects of Child Bilingualism

Research Observations and Classroom Applications

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Maria Andreou

This book investigates how bilingualism affects children’s language, cognitive and narrative abilities. The data sample derives from 209 8-12 years old bilingual children, in three different targeted languages (Greek-English, Greek-German, Greek-Albanian) along with 100 monolingual Greek children. The children completed baseline and experimental tasks measuring their vocabulary, grammar, cognitive skills, and narrative production abilities. The outcome of this work reveals that learning to read and write in two languages is beneficial for the development of language and cognitive skills. A strong case can be made to the growing bilingual communities in Germany and beyond to provide literacy training in both languages within mainstream schools, afternoon classes outside of the curriculum or in community schools.

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6 Narratives: Macrostructure vs. Microstructure Measures

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In Chapter 3 we provided the cognitive profiles of our bilingual participants categorized on the basis of their Balance Index (i.e., BES, HLH, etc.). In the present chapter the participants will be subgrouped by means of the following criteria15: a) Bilingualism Effect (Monolinguals (N = 100) vs. Bilinguals (N = 209); b) Area of Residence Effect16, i.e., Greece (N = 109) vs. non-Greece (N = 100) (Germany, England and Albania); and c) Language Pair Effect, i.e., Greek-German (N = 79) vs. Greek-English (N = 60) vs. Greek-Albanian (N = 70). Another categorization is the age development effect, where the participants are divided into two different age groups. The first group consists of 8 to 10 years old children (N = 155) and the second of 10 to 12 years old (N = 154).

More specifically, the first objective is to explore the data of children’s narratives in the two different levels of language analysis: the first level concerns the microstructure properties which lead to a direction on text-based grammatical information, and the second level concerns macrostructure properties that focus on the structure of story grammar and involve different capacities such as cognition and theory of mind. Hence, in order to create a well-formed narrative a well-performed combination of the two structures is necessary. A good performance on the microstructure level rests on participants’ skillful use of linguistic forms in functionally appropriate ways in order to achieve a coherent text expressed in a cohesive manner (Haliday and Hasan, 1976). According to Berman and Slobin (1994), this level requires...

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