Understanding changes in elementary Mandarin students' L1 and L2 writing

Sarah J. McCarthey, Yi Huey Guo, Sunday Cummins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study focused on five elementary Mandarin-speaking students' development as writers over a two-year period in US classrooms. Mandarin speakers who came to the US in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grades demonstrated some language loss in their Chinese writing. We found differences in terms of sentence complexity, character complexity, rhetorical features, and voice in students' writing between Year 1 and Year 2. Students' native language loss was mitigated by their initial writing competence, support at home, and opportunities to write in Chinese at school. Four of the five students' English writing made dramatic improvements in grammar and punctuation, sentence complexity, rhetorical style and voice over the two years. The fifth student, whose writing did not improve, had few opportunities to write in his new school setting. Our findings suggest that the amount and quality of writing opportunities in each language affect students' writing development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-104
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Second Language Writing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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