Chapter published in:Developing Narrative Comprehension: Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives
Edited by Ute Bohnacker and Natalia Gagarina
[Studies in Bilingualism 61] 2020
► pp. 62–98
Inferential comprehension, age and language
How German-Swedish bilingual preschoolers understand picture-based stories
This study investigates story comprehension in 46 German-Swedish 4- to 6-year-old bilinguals growing up in Sweden. The children’s inferential understanding of goals and emotions of story characters in visually presented stories was assessed in both German and Swedish, using the comprehension questions from the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (MAIN; Gagarina et al., 2012, 2015) for the narrative tasks Cat/Dog and Baby Birds/Baby Goats. We analysed effects of age, language, and narrative task on overall comprehension scores and investigated whether comprehension scores were influenced by expressive vocabulary knowledge, operationalized as scores on a vocabulary task (Cross-Linguistic Lexical Task, CLT; Haman et al., 2015). Additionally, response patterns for the different comprehension questions were analysed.We found effects of age, with 6-year-olds outperforming 4- and 5-year-olds, but no significant difference between the two younger groups. The development with age was similar in both languages and was consistent across tasks. The main effect of language was not significant, but when German was tested first, the children performed lower in German than in Swedish. When Swedish was tested first, no difference was found between the languages. The effect of expressive vocabulary was not the same in the two languages. In German, but not in Swedish, CLT expressive vocabulary scores significantly predicted narrative comprehension scores. The children’s inferential comprehension performance depended on the narrative task used, with higher scores for MAIN Cat/Dog than Baby Birds/Baby Goats, and response accuracy was also found to vary substantially between different comprehension questions. Response patterns to individual questions were strikingly similar in Swedish and German, suggesting that they may generalize across languages. The results indicate that an analysis of individual comprehension questions allows us to explore and detect patterns not visible in overall scores.
Keywords: German, inferencing, narrative comprehension, Swedish, vocabulary
Published online: 10 December 2020
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Cited by 2 other publications
Bohnacker, Ute, Buket Öztekin & Josefin Lindgren
Lindgren, Josefin & Ute Bohnacker
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