Development of Phonological Awareness in Bilingual Chinese Children

  • Xi Chen
  • Yu-Min Ku
  • Emiko Koyama
  • Richard C. Anderson
  • Wenling Li
Original Article


This study investigated the phonological awareness of 219 first, second, and fourth grade Cantonese-speaking children from the south of China, who received immersion Mandarin instruction beginning in the first grade. Children received onset, rime and tone awareness tasks in Cantonese and Mandarin. Children performed better on the Cantonese onset awareness task in grade one, but the difference disappeared in higher grades. However, their performance on the rime and tone awareness tasks was better in Mandarin. These results reflect the phonological structure of the two languages: Mandarin has a more complex onset system, whereas Cantonese has more complex tone and rime systems. Moreover, children’s phonological awareness increased faster in Mandarin, which likely resulted from Mandarin instruction. Confirmatory factor analysis suggested that onset-rime awareness is a universal construct, whereas tone awareness is a language-specific construct.


Phonological awareness Cantonese Mandarin Bilingual Cross-language transfer 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xi Chen
    • 1
  • Yu-Min Ku
    • 2
  • Emiko Koyama
    • 1
  • Richard C. Anderson
    • 3
  • Wenling Li
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Applied PsychologyOntario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.National Central UniversityJhongli CityTaiwan, ROC
  3. 3.University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  4. 4.TIU UniversityDeerfieldUSA

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