British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 6 Issue 3 (September 1988), Pages 207-301

Bilingualism, literacy and meta‐linguistic awareness in preschool children (pages 235-244)

This study attempts to separate the effects of literacy from those of bilingualism, on some specific measures of meta‐linguistic awareness in a group of children at a bilingual preschool in Italy. Controls for age are incorporated, with socio‐economic background held constant. Literacy and bilingualism are treated as continuous variables, with subjects rated on 10‐point scales by their teachers. Distinct and specific effects are shown, with literacy being related to the ability to recognize words as discrete sentence units, and bilingualism related to the perception of two sorts of semantic arbitrariness. In contrast to other studies, no effects were found for perception of the general rule‐governed nature of language, nor for the evaluation of the truth value of tautologies and contradictions (non‐empirical statements). Explanations are offered in terms of the lack of important controls in those studies, as well as the importance of the social and educational context in which the skills of literacy and bilingualism are learned and practised.

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