Skip to main content Accessibility help

Metalinguistic awareness in bilingual children's word reading: A cross-lagged panel study on cross-linguistic transfer facilitation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 July 2016

Michigan State University
Nanyang Technological University
Singapore Centre for Chinese Language
E-mail address:


This longitudinal study examined metalinguistic awareness in bilingual word reading development among Malay–English bilingual children in Singapore. Participants were assessed with the same tasks twice with a 1-year interval from Grade 3 to Grade 4 in phonological and morphological awareness and derived word decoding in both English and Malay. Structural equation modeling analyses revealed that both types of metalinguistic awareness significantly predicted derived word reading in both languages. Subsequent cross-lagged panel modeling found construct-level transfer facilitation effect from Malay on English for phonological awareness but conversely from English on Malay for morphological awareness. Neither type of metalinguistic awareness exerted a transfer facilitation effect on word reading. These findings shed light on the developmental mechanism of cross-linguistic transfer in biliteracy acquisition.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.


Adams, M. J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Alderson, J. C. (1984). Reading in a foreign language: A reading problem or a language problem. In Alderson, J. C. & Urquhart, A. H. (Eds.), Reading in a foreign language (pp. 127). London: Longman.Google Scholar
Biesanz, J. C. (2012). Autoregressive longitudinal models. In Hoyle, R. H. (Ed.), Handbook of structural equation modeling (pp. 459471). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
Carlisle, J. F. (2003). Morphology matters in learning to read: A commentary. Reading Psychology, 24, 291322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cisero, C. A., & Royer, J. M. (1995). The development and cross-language transfer of phonological awareness. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 20, 275303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49, 222251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cummins, J. (1991). Interdependence of first- and second-language proficiency in bilingual children. In Bialystok, E. (Ed.), Language processing in bilingual children (pp. 7089). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deacon, S. H., Benere, J., & Pasquarella, A. (2013). Reciprocal relationship: Children's morphological awareness and their reading accuracy across Grades 2 and 3. Developmental Psychology, 49, 11131126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deacon, S. H., & Cain, K. (2011). What we have learned from “learning to read in more than one language.” Journal of Research in Reading, 34, 15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deacon, S. H., & Kirby, J. B. (2004). Morphological awareness: Just “more phonological”? The roles of morphological and phonological awareness in reading development. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25, 223238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deacon, S. H., Wade-Woolley, L., & Kirby, J. B. (2007). Crossover: The role of morphological awareness in French immersion children's reading. Developmental Psychology, 43, 732746.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dixon, L. Q. (2005). Bilingual education policy in Singapore: An analysis of its sociohistorical roots and current academic outcomes. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 8, 2547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dixon, L. Q., Chuang, H.-K., & Quiroz, B. (2012). English phonological awareness in bilinguals: A cross-linguistic study of Tamil, Malay, and Chinese English-language learners. Journal of Research in Reading, 35, 372392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dunn, L. M., & Dunn, D. M. (2007). Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (4th ed.). Bloomington, MN: Pearson Assessments.Google Scholar
Durgunoglu, A. Y. (2002). Cross-linguistic transfer in literacy development and implications for language learners. Annals of Dyslexia, 52, 189204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Durgunoglu, A. Y., Nagy, W. E., & Hancin, B. J. (1993). Cross-language transfer of phonemic awareness. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 453465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Genesee, F., Geva, E., Dressler, C., & Kamil, M. (2006). Synthesis: Cross-linguistic relationships. In August, D. & Shanahan, T. (Eds.), Developing literacy in second-language learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on language-minority children and youth (pp. 153183). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Geva, E. (2014). The cross-language transfer journey—A guide to the perplexed. Written Language & Literacy, 17, 115.Google Scholar
Geva, E., & Ryan, E. B. (1993) Linguistic and memory correlates of academic skills in first and second languages. Language Learning, 43, 542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geva, E., & Wang, M. (2001). The development of basic reading skills in children: A cross-language perspective. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 21, 182204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gottardo, A., Yan, B., Siegel, L. S., & Wade-Woolley, L (2001). Factors related to English reading performance in children with Chinese as a first language: More evidence of cross-language transfer of phonological processing. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 530542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rahim, Hajar Abdul. (2014). Corpora in language research in Malaysia. Kajian Malaysia, 32 (Suppl. 1), 116.Google Scholar
Hipfner-Boucher, K., & Chen, X. (2016). Cross-language transfer of metalinguistic and cognitive skills in second language learning. In Chen, X., Dronjic, V., & Helms-Park, R. (Eds.), Reading in a second language: Cognitive and psycholinguistic issues (pp. 99132). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Hu, L.-Z., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hulslander, J., Olson, R. K., Willcutt, E. G., & Wadsworth, S. J. (2010). Longitudinal stability of reading-related skills and their prediction of reading development. Scientific Studies of Reading, 14, 111136.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jared, D., Cormier, P., Levy, B. A., & Wade-Woolley, L. (2011). Early predictors of biliteracy in children in French immersion: A 4-year longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology. 103, 119139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Katz, L., & Frost, R. (1992). The reading process is different for different orthographies: The orthographic depth hypothesis. In Forst, R. & Katz, L. (Eds.), Orthography, phonology, morphology, and meaning (pp. 6784). Amsterdam: North-Holland.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kline, R. (2016). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (4th ed.). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
Koda, K. (2005). Insights into second language reading: A cross-linguistic approach. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Koda, K. (2008). Impacts of prior literacy experience on learning to read in a second language. In Koda, K. & Zehler, A. M. (Eds.), Learning to read across languages: Cross-linguistic relationships in first- and second-language literacy development (pp. 6896). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Kruk, R. S., & Bergman, K. (2012). The reciprocal relations between morphological processes and reading. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 114, 1034.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kuo, L.-J., & Anderson, R. C. (2008). Conceptual and methodological issues in comparing metalinguistic awareness across languages. In Koda, K. & Zehler, A. (Eds.), Learning to read across languages: Cross-linguistic relationships in first- and second-language literacy development (pp. 3967). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Lee, L. W. (2008). Development and validation of a reading-related assessment battery in Malay for the purpose of dyslexia assessment. Annals of Dyslexia, 58, 3757.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lee, L. W., Low, H. M., & Mohamed, A. R. (2012). Word count analysis of Malay language textbooks for the purpose of developing a Malay reading remedial programme. Writing Systems Research, 4, 103109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lee, L. W., & Wheldall, K. (2011). Acquisition of Malay word recognition skills: Lessons from low-progress early readers. Dyslexia, 17, 1937.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Luo, Y. C., Chen, X., & Geva, E. (2014). Concurrent and longitudinal cross-linguistic transfer of phonological awareness and morphological awareness in Chinese-English bilingual children. Written Language & Literacy, 17, 89115.Google Scholar
Mahony, D., Singson, M., & Mann, V. (2000). Reading ability and sensitivity to morphological relations. Reading and Writing, 12, 191218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Melby-Lervåg, M., & Lervåg, A. (2011). Cross-linguistic transfer of oral language, decoding, phonological awareness and reading comprehension: A meta-analysis of the correlational evidence. Journal of Research in Reading, 34, 114135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Melby-Lervåg, M., Lyster, S.-A. H., & Hulme, C. (2012). Phonological skills and their role in learning to read: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 138, 322352.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ministry of Education. (2014). 2015 Syllabus Malay Language Primary. Singapore: Author.Google Scholar
Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2015). Mplus user's guide (7th ed.). Los Angeles: Author.Google Scholar
Nagy, W. E., & Anderson, R. C. (1999). Metalinguistic awareness and literacy acquisition in different languages. In Wagner, D. A., Venezky, R. C., & Street, B. V. (Eds.), Literacy: An international handbook (pp. 155160). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
Nunes, T., & Bryant, P. (2011). Morphemic approaches for reading words. In Vadasy, P. & O'Connor, R. (Eds.), Handbook of reading interventions (pp. 88112). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
Pakir, A. (2008). Bilingual education in Singapore. In Cummins, J. & Hornberger, N. H. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of language and education: Vol. 5. Bilingual education (2nd ed., pp. 91203). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
Perfetti, C. A. (2003). The universal grammar of reading. Scientific Studies of Reading, 7, 324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Plag, I. (2003). Word-formation in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Prentice, D. J. (1987). Malay (Indonesian and Malaysian). In Comrie, B. (Ed.), The world's major languages (pp. 913935). London: Croom Helm.Google Scholar
Ramirez, G., Chen, X., Geva, E., & Kiefer, H. (2010). Morphological awareness in Spanish-speaking English language learners: Within- and cross-language effects on word reading. Reading and Writing, 23, 337358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Raven, J., Raven, J. C., & Court, J. H. (1998). Manual for Raven's Progressive Matrices and Vocabulary Scales: Section 3. The Standard Progressive Matrices. Oxford: Oxford Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
Rayner, K., Foorman, B. R., Perfetti, C A., Pesetsky, D., & Seidenberg, M. S. (2001). How psychological science informs the teaching of reading. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2, 3174.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rickard Liow, S. J., & Lee, L. C. (2004). Metalinguistic awareness and semi-syllabic scripts: Children's spelling errors in Malay. Reading and Writing, 17, 726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Selig, J. P., & Little, T. D. (2012). Autoregressive and cross-lagged panel analysis for longitudinal data. In Laursen, B., Little, T. D., & Card, N. A. (Eds.), Handbook of developmental research methods (pp. 265278). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
Sun-Alperin, K., & Wang, M. (2011). Cross-language transfer of phonological and orthographic processing skills in Spanish-speaking children learning to read and spell in English. Reading and Writing, 24, 591614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tadmor, U. (2009). Malay-Indonesian. In Comrie, B. (Ed.), The world's major languages (2nd ed., pp. 791818). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Verhoeven, L., & Perfetti, C. A. (2011). Morphological processing in reading acquisition: A cross-linguistic perspective. Applied Psycholinguistics, 32, 457466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K., & Rashotte, C. A. (1999). Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processes. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.Google Scholar
Wang, M., Cheng, C., & Chen, S.-W. (2006). Contribution of morphological awareness to Chinese-English biliteracy acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 542553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Winskel, H., & Widjaja, V. (2007). Phonological awareness, letter knowledge and literacy development in Indonesian beginner readers and spellers. Applied Psycholinguistics, 28, 2143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zhang, D. (2013). Linguistic distance effect on cross-linguistic transfer of morphological awareness. Applied Psycholinguistics, 34, 917942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zhang, D. (2016). Morphology in Malay–English biliteracy acquisition: An intervention study. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 19, 546562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zhang, D., & Koda, K. (2014). Awareness of derivation and compounding in Chinese–English biliteracy acquisition. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 17, 5573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zhang, D., Koda, K., & Leong, C. K. (2016). Morphological awareness and bilingual word learning: A longitudinal structural equation modeling study. Reading and Writing, 29, 383407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ziegler, J. C., & Goswami, U. (2005). Reading acquisition, developmental dyslexia, and skilled reading across languages: A psycholinguistic grain size theory. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 329.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 35
Total number of PDF views: 463 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 5th December 2020. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Hostname: page-component-b4dcdd7-pwkpp Total loading time: 0.273 Render date: 2020-12-05T23:26:20.275Z Query parameters: { "hasAccess": "0", "openAccess": "0", "isLogged": "0", "lang": "en" } Feature Flags last update: Sat Dec 05 2020 23:01:12 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time) Feature Flags: { "metrics": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "peerReview": true, "crossMark": true, "comments": true, "relatedCommentaries": true, "subject": true, "clr": false, "languageSwitch": true }

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Metalinguistic awareness in bilingual children's word reading: A cross-lagged panel study on cross-linguistic transfer facilitation
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Metalinguistic awareness in bilingual children's word reading: A cross-lagged panel study on cross-linguistic transfer facilitation
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Metalinguistic awareness in bilingual children's word reading: A cross-lagged panel study on cross-linguistic transfer facilitation
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *