WP9 Narrative, Argument and Literacy: A Comparative Study of the Narrative Discourse Development of Monolingual and Bilingual 5-10 Year Old Learners

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In order to find out more about bilingual children’s narrative discourse acquisition, this paper analyses and compares the oral narrative discourse of bilingual and monolingual 5-10 year olds in two ways. It uses (a) Labov?s taxonomy to measure evaluation, and (b) schema theory to do an episodic analysis of elicited narratives and it argues that these frameworks serve to describe the expository/argumentative discourse and “essay-text” literacy characteristics of an oral narrative. It was found that monolingual children have narratives that are more highly evaluated and more episodically structured than bilingual children?s narratives, particularly for the seven and eight year old age group. Moreover, the nature of the partial “catching up” of 9 & 10 year old bilingual children with their monolingual peers was found to reveal relative progress in the less sophisticated narrative features. As the features of narrative discourse that bilingual children lack (relative to their monolingual peers) are partly constituitive of academic literacy events and discourses, these findings can be seen to reveal part of the academic gap, theorised by Cummins, that bilingual children still have to cross in order to perform well in school. This interpretation of the data marks one possible starting point of an endeavour to learn about ways that narrative skills of bilingual learners can be developed.