Syntactic awareness matters: Uncovering reading comprehension difficulties in Hong Kong Chinese-English bilingual children

Xiuhong TONG, Qinli DENG, Shelley Xiuli TONG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

This study examined whether syntactic awareness was related to reading comprehension difficulties in either first language (L1) Chinese or second language (L2) English, or both, among Hong Kong Chinese-English bilingual children. Parallel L1 and L2 metalinguistic and reading measures, including syntactic word-order, morphological awareness, phonological awareness, vocabulary, word reading, reading comprehension, and cognitive measures of nonverbal intelligence and working memory, were administered to 224 fourth-graders. Five groups of comprehenders were identified using a regression approach: (1) 12 poor in Chinese-only (PC), (2) 18 poor in English-only (PE), (3) six poor in both Chinese and English (PB), (4) 14 average in both Chinese and English (AB), and (5) seven good in both (GB). The results of multivariate analyses of covariance showed that (1) the PB group performed worse than the AB and GB groups in both L1 Chinese and L2 English syntactic awareness; (2) the PC and PE groups performed worse than the AB and GB groups in Chinese syntactic awareness; (3) the PE group had lower performance than the PC, AB, and GB groups in English syntactic awareness; and (4) no significant group difference was found in L2 morphological awareness or vocabulary across both languages. By suggesting that weakness in syntactic awareness can serve as a universal indicator for identifying poor comprehenders in either or both L1 Chinese and L2 English among Hong Kong Chinese-English bilingual children, these findings demonstrate the fundamental role of syntactic awareness in bilingual reading comprehension. Copyright © 2022 The Author(s), under exclusive licence to The International Dyslexia Association.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Dyslexia
Early online dateAug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Aug 2022

Citation

Tong, X., Deng, Q., & Tong, S. X. (2022). Syntactic awareness matters: Uncovering reading comprehension difficulties in Hong Kong Chinese-English bilingual children. Annals of Dyslexia. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s11881-022-00268-y

Keywords

  • Bilingual reading comprehension difficulties
  • Chinese-English bilingual children
  • Morphological awareness
  • Phonological awareness
  • Syntactic word order awareness

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