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General Linguistics

University of Languages and International studies
Vietnam National University of Hanoi.





Chiang,Y.Ch, & Lin, L.C ( 2010 ) Morphological and syntactic Abilities in

Taiwanese Preschoolers' oral narratives. Asian EFL Journal, volume 12, issue 4
( PP 85-101 ) Asian Journal EFL Press.

The purpose of the study was to examine morphological and syntactic

abilities of preschool children learning English as a foreign language in Taiwan.
A wordless picture book, Frog, where are you? was used to elicit the children's
Mandarin and English oral narratives.By calculating the number of modified
communication units and the mean length of number of modified
communication units in words, the researchers submitted the hypothesises that
there was a significant language effect on the children language's productivity,
and the Taiwanese preschoolers' morphological and syntactic abilities of
Mandarin was better than that of English .
The participants were 22 Taiwanese EFL children (10 boys and 12 girls)
from the same kindergarten and similar socioeconomic backgrounds with the
mean age of 5 years and 10 months old. Concerning the equivalence in gender
and age, this is a good sample. However, the problem lies in its size. A larger
sample would have aided in the data analysis. Moreover, 19 (86.4%) of the
children were from an English immersion program and only 3 (13.6%) of them
from a bilingual program. This unequality may have affected the results and the
The children's narratives in Mandarin and English were digitally audio-
recorded and transcribed verbatim.This was a good way to examine the
children's spontaneous language productivity. Yet, there was a point that may
cause wonder of readers about the results of the data analysis. The point
appeared when the English oral narratives were transcribed into computer text
files basing on the convensions from Systematic Analysis of Language
Transcipts (SALT, Miller et al., 2006) while the Mandarin ones were transcribed
The preschoolers' language productivity was measured by calculating the
number of modified communication units (NMC), the mean length of modified
communication units in words (MLMCW), the number of total words (NTW),
and the number of the different words (NDW). There was nothing to complain
about the number calculation. Nevertheless, there should have been more
diccussion on the categories of morphological errors. 9 categories of
morphological errors in Mandarin were introduced while only 7 ones were
introduced in English.
Continually, the reasearchers explored the effect of language on
productivity measures by using paired sample t-test with scores ( NMC,
MLMCW, NTW, NDW) as dependent variables and languages as independent
variable ( Mandarin and English). Then they used the Pearson-Product Moment
correlation analysis to investigate whether NMC, MLMCW, NTW and NDW in
the children's Mandarian stories correlated with the same measures in their
English stories. The two instruments were conducted properly to find out the
difference and the correlation between the Mandarin narratives and the English
one.The results showed that NMC and NTW in the preschoolers' Mandarin
stories was slightly higher than that in their English stories.The researchers saw
that the finding was consistent with what of Fiestas and Pena (2004). They had
already found a good theoretical base and proved it in this case. However, this
may make readers look into the question: " Is there anything really new in the
finding?".Hence,there was a new point in the finding that the children tended to
produce significant longer MLMCW in English than in Mandarin but the
writers gave a possible explaination to this phenomenon and came back to their
point of view, the Taiwanese preschoolers were better in their dominant
language than in their second language.
Looking into the children's morphological errors in Mandarin and English
narratives, the writers concluded that they made more errors in English than in
Mandarin,this was right and predictable. The interesting thing here was that the
researchers noticed monolingual English-speaking children made the same types
of morphological errors as EFL children, which should have been investigated
more to get useful conclusion for further study.
In the Syntactic structures in Mandarin and English narratives section,
the researchers provided readers with detailed information and analysis on the
children's using syntactic structures in both languahes.They demonstrated that
100% of the children told stories using serial verb construction and sentence
linking, 68% used the ba-construction and 32% made sentences with the bei-
construction in their Mandarin narratives. In their English narratives 100% of
the children connected sentences with conjunctives, 55% embeded noun clauses
into sentences, 18% used the passive construction but none produced relative
clauses. The writers gave each proportion a proper explanation and reasonable
theoretical base. Nevertheless, they did not have any comparision between
Mandarin and English narratives which was rather expected.
Finally, the reseachers came into the conclusion that the Taiwanese
preschoolers' morphological and syntactic skills in Mandarin were better than
that in English. In spite of the fact that the chosen children had studied English
since young ages, this conclusion was significantly predictable.Obviously,
readers expected something more surprising in such a research.
In short, the article was a good sample of research design. Ying-Chieh
Chiang and Lu-Chun Lin got a lot of useful references to support their
hypothesis.They noticed most of their limitations, which would help them to
improve their research in the future.