Development of phonological awareness in bilingual Chinese children

Xi Chen, Yu Min Ku, Emiko Koyama, Richard C. Anderson, Wenling Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-418
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Bilingual
  • Cantonese
  • Cross-language transfer
  • Mandarin
  • Phonological awareness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Development of phonological awareness in bilingual Chinese children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this