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Second-language learners’ advantage in metalinguistic awareness: A question of languages’ characteristics




The awareness of the formal structure of language has been widely studied in the literature but less in a bilingualism context. Even less with second-language learners (SLL) who are acquiring their second language (L2) and are not considered as bilinguals.


This study aimed at providing an investigation of young SLL's skills in phonological, morphological and syntactic awareness.


Ninety-five French first graders participated in our study. Children were divided into two groups: monolinguals versus SLL of German (i.e., L1 = French, L2 = German).


Both groups completed two phonological tasks (i.e., phonological categorization and deletion). They also completed four morphological tasks evaluating their morphological awareness on two distinct aspects (i.e., affixes and compounds). Finally, they were evaluated on a syntactic awareness task.


The main findings highlighted a bilingual superiority for compounds morphological and syntactic awareness but not for affixes morphological and phonological awareness.


The second-language learning advantage was observed on dimensions distinguishing the two languages (i.e., compounds morphology and syntax) but not on shared affixes morphological and phonological dimensions. Thus, results are discussed in light of languages' characteristics and bilingualism proficiency.