Predicting Growth in English and French Vocabulary: The Facilitating Effects of Morphological and Cognate Awareness

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Abstract

The present study investigated the contribution of morphological and cognate awareness to the development of English and French vocabulary knowledge among young minority and majority language children who were enrolled in a French immersion program. Participating children (n = 75) were assessed in English and French on measures of morphological awareness, cognate awareness, and vocabulary knowledge from Grades 1 to 3. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to investigate linear trends in English and French vocabulary growth for minority and majority language children and to identify metalinguistic contributions to Grade 1 and Grade 3 English and French vocabulary performance and rate of growth. Results demonstrated a similar pattern of prediction for both groups of children. English and French morphological awareness and French-English cognate awareness significantly predicted concurrent and longitudinal vocabulary development after controlling for nonverbal reasoning, phonological awareness, and word identification. The contributions of morphological awareness to English vocabulary and cognate awareness to French vocabulary strengthened between Grades 1 and 2. These findings highlight the emerging importance of morphological and cognate awareness in children’s vocabulary development and suggest that these metalinguistic factors can serve to broaden the vocabulary repertoire of children who enter school with limited language proficiency.

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