Volume 12, Issue 4
  • ISSN 1879-9264
  • E-ISSN: 1879-9272
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There is no agreement regarding the relationship between narrative abilities in the two languages of a bilingual child. In this paper, we test the hypothesis that such cross-language relationships depend on age and language exposure by studying the narrative skills of 32 Indonesian-Dutch bilinguals (mean age: 8;5, range: 5;0–11;9). The narratives were elicited by means of the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (MAIN) and analysed for story structure, episodic complexity and use of internal state terms (ISTs) in the home language (Indonesian) and majority language (Dutch). The results demonstrate that story structure scores in the home language (but not in the majority language) were positively related to age. Exposure measures (current Dutch/Indonesian input, current richness of Dutch/Indonesian input, and length of exposure to Dutch) did not predict the macrostructure scores. There was a significant positive cross-language relationship in story structure and episodic complexity, and this relationship became stronger as a function of length of exposure to Dutch. There was also a positive cross-lingual relation in IST use, but it became weaker with age. The results support the idea that narrative skills are transferable between languages and suggest that cross-language relationships may interact with age and exposure factors in differential ways.


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