The Cross-linguistic Morphological Awareness Transfer: The Development of Chinese-speaking Adolescent Learners' English Morphological Awareness
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Cross-linguistic transfer has been found to exist, at different degrees, in the process of second/foreign language acquisition. Both the level of orthographic depth and the orthographic distance between L1 and L2 affect the rate of the word learning process in language acquisition. Compared to English, Chinese orthography encodes morphemes within and via characters, lacks inflectional affixation, and contains a significant number of compound words. Extensive morpho-syllabic characters may develop Chinese readers' morphological awareness, as well as their vocabulary. This study examined how Taiwanese children apply decoding skills they have developed in learning Chinese, while they read English words. The degrees of transfer from Chinese to English within a structural model of morphological awareness are examined and analyzed. In addition, moderation effects resulting from regional differences and the length of time spent learning English are also discussed. Students' morphological awareness is measured in six subtests which individually emphasize inflectional morphemes, derivational morphemes, and morphemes of compound words in Chinese and English, respectively. The results show that middle school students' Chinese morphological awareness facilitates their English morphological awareness development. These students also demonstrated the ability to detect morphemes in English, but only to a limited extent. They were skilled at decoding genuine compound words and were able to detect high frequency morphemes within pseudo-words. Their lengthy experience with morphologically complex characters and words in Chinese was most likely the major factor leading to such skill. Finally, in the development of English morphological awareness, the total length of time spent learning English and the length of formal English instruction experienced at the junior high school level were both found to positively correlate with the level of students' English morphological awareness, but not with the length of formal English instruction at the elementary school level. Such a discrepancy can be attributed to the current curriculum prevalent in elementary school which is only aimed at developing students' listening and speaking skills.
English as a foreign language
Yeh, Yi-Fen (2010). The Cross-linguistic Morphological Awareness Transfer: The Development of Chinese-speaking Adolescent Learners' English Morphological Awareness. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from