Morphology in Biliteracy Acquisition: An Intervention Study

Project Number
OER 24/10 ZDB

Project Duration
May 2011 - February 2014


The overarching objective of this project is to investigate the effects of training on English morphological awareness on the development of morphological skills, vocabulary knowledge, and literacy abilities in English as well as mother tongue (MT) languages among Singaporean bilingual children. Previous studies have found that morphological awareness is an important contributor to word learning and literacy acquisition, and it can be transferred from one language to facilitate literacy acquisition in another language. However, a majority of these studies are correlation-based. To establish a causal relationship between morphological awareness and literacy acquisition, both intra-lingually and inter-lingually, (quasi-)experimental studies are necessitated. In addition, previous biliteracy acquisition research has largely focused on languages that are typologically close. As a result, it is not clear whether transfer of morphological awareness would also happen to languages that are typologically distant. In other words, it remains unclear whether facilitation effect of morphological awareness transfer would be governed by the linguistic distance between the languages of bilingual children. From the perspective of literacy research locally in Singapore, morphological awareness has not received its deserved attention, for English as well as MT languages. Existing research on Singaporean children's (bi)literacy acquisition has focused largely on phonological skills, classroom pedagogical practices, socio-affective influences on literacy acquisition, etc. In addition, the small number of studies related to biliteracy acquisition is cross-sectional and non-interventionist in design. Consequently, it is not known whether metalinguistic skills in one language are causally related to corresponding skills and literacy abilities in another language. Based on the above delineations of the gaps of (bi)literacy research in general and those gaps in Singapore in particular, we aim to conduct a morphological intervention study on bilingual children of different ethnic language backgrounds (i.e., Chinese and Malay) in Singapore. To the best of our knowledge, the project is the first of its kind that investigates the effect of morphological training on biliteracy acquisition among Singaporean children. In addition to its contribution to English literacy pedagogy and student learning, the project is expected to deepen our understanding about morphological awareness and its transfer in biliteracy acquisition.

Research Themes
Bilingual & Biliteracy Development

Funding Source

Related Links
ReEd Vol 11 (2013): Transferring Literacy Skills

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