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Narratives in English and Cantonese (Rezzonico et al., 2016)

journal contribution
posted on 2022-02-05, 00:22 authored by Stefano Rezzonico, Ahuva Goldberg, Katy Ka-Yan Mak, Stephanie Yap, Trelani Milburn, Adriana Belletti, Luigi Girolametto
Purpose: The aim of this study was to compare narratives generated by 4-year-old and 5-year-old children who were bilingual in English and Cantonese.
Method: The sample included 47 children (23 who were 4 years old and 24 who were 5 years old) living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who spoke both Cantonese and English. The participants spoke and heard predominantly Cantonese in the home. Participants generated a story in English and Cantonese by using a wordless picture book; language order was counterbalanced. Data were transcribed and coded for story grammar, morphosyntactic quality, mean length of utterance in words, and the number of different words.
Results: Repeated measures analysis of variance revealed higher story grammar scores in English than in Cantonese, but no other significant main effects of language were observed. Analyses also revealed that older children had higher story grammar, mean length of utterance in words, and morphosyntactic quality scores than younger children in both languages. Hierarchical regressions indicated that Cantonese story grammar predicted English story grammar and Cantonese microstructure predicted English microstructure. However, no correlation was observed between Cantonese and English morphosyntactic quality.
Conclusions: The results of this study have implications for speech-language pathologists who collect narratives in Cantonese and English from bilingual preschoolers. The results suggest that there is a possible transfer in narrative abilities between the two languages.


This research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Canada), and the first author is the recipient of a postdoctoral fellowship granted by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Switzerland).