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date: 16 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

Metalinguistic awareness is a cognitive process that allows a person to explicitly think about structural features of language such as phonological, morphological, and orthographic features and use this knowledge base to monitor and control his/her use of language. Metalinguistic awareness is strongly associated with monolingual children’s early literacy skills. The concept of metalinguistic awareness has also been used to explore the possibility of any paralleled mechanism that metalinguistic awareness operates in predicting bilingual children’s early literacy learning, especially between two languages that are orthographically distant such as Chinese and English. Research on Chinese-English bilingual children in both Chinese as a first language context (e.g., Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) and Chinese as a heritage language context (e.g., Canada, United States, and the United Kingdom) confirms some cross-language facilitation of early literacy skills mediated by metalinguistic awareness in general, but overall research findings reveal a variance in terms of the directionality of transfer and aspects of transfer in predicting literacy skills in the two languages within the respective phonological, morphological, and orthographic awareness domain. Several linguistics-external factors such as individual children’s language proficiencies in the two languages and their exposure to formal language instruction mediate patterns of metalinguistic transfer in phonological, morphological, and orthographic awareness across the two different language contexts.

Keywords: metalinguistic awareness, cross-language transfer, phonological awareness, morphological awareness, orthographic awareness, Chinese-English bilinguals

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