Original Research

Inference generation and text comprehension in bilingual children: A case study

Agness Hara, Heike Tappe
Literator | Vol 37, No 2 | a1287 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v37i2.1287 | © 2016 Agness Hara, Heike Tappe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 February 2016 | Published: 15 September 2016

About the author(s)

Agness Hara, Department of Languages and Literature, Mzuzu University, Malawi; Linguistics Programme, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Heike Tappe, Linguistics Programme, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


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Abstract

The current study explores inference-making processes in 10–12-year-old bilingual Malawian children who either listened to stories in their primary language, or L1 (Chichewa), as compared to their secondary language (L2) (English), or viewed cartoon films containing no verbal content. The 127 children who participated in the study were divided into six groups characterised by different conditions of stimulus presentation – stimuli varied with respect to their modality (non-verbal film versus pre-recorded stories) or the language of stimulus presentation (English or Chichewa). The results indicate that the pre-recorded audio recordings seem to have supported inference-making more than the corresponding wordless films. This finding illustrates the significance of linguistically presented content. The linguistically presented content elicited even more inferences when it was presented in the children’s L1 (Chichewa) rather than in their medium of academic instruction (English). However, the results also indicate that the children from the private school (with English as a medium of instruction) drew more inferences than the children from the public school (where Chichewa is the medium of instruction). Furthermore, the results reveal that while the children were able to use knowledge transfer from a variety of knowledge bases to draw inferences, the inferencing process was impeded when the story content deviated too much from their own experiences. Lastly we found indications of variations in inferencing patterns that seemed to correlate to the language in which the stimulus material was presented and responded to.

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