Home / Regular Issue / JSSH Vol. 29 (1) Mar. 2021 / JSSH-6635-2020


The Morphosyntactic Abilities of Bilingual Malay Preschool Children Based on the Malay and English Sentence Repetition Tasks

Zur Hanis Hamim, Rogayah Abdul Razak and Badrulzaman Abdul Hamid

Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, Volume 29, Issue 1, March 2021

DOI: https://doi.org/10.47836/pjssh.29.1.04

Published: 26 March 2021

Sentence repetition task has been proven to be a tool that can detect language difficulties and is indicative of abnormal language. In Malaysia, studies on the language abilities of bilingual children in sentence repetition (SR) tasks are sparse. Therefore, this study is aimed at examining the morphosyntactic abilities of 60 bilingual Malay children aged 4;0 to 6;11 based on SR tasks in Malay (L1) and English (L2). In the SR task, participants were asked to listen carefully to sentences being read out and then repeat verbatim the sentences heard. Their responses were scored based on accuracy, syntax, grammar, and word categories. The findings demonstrated a significant difference between the two languages in terms of accuracy [df= 118, t=1.990, p= .049]; the Malay language had statistically higher scores compared to English scores. There was also a significant difference on the performance based on age factor, [Malay (df5,54=3.561, p= .007); English (df5,54=2.894, p= .022)]. The results also revealed that the omission of both content and function words was more prominent compared to other error types. A triangulation of the quantitative and qualitative data was done. The findings highlighted the morphosyntactic abilities of the bilingual children in both languages and error patterns produced.

  • Abu Bakar, N. (2017). Kemahiran sintaksis dalam kalangan kanak- kanak Melayu dengan kecelaruan bahasa spesifik [The syntactic abilities of Malay children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI); Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

  • Abu Bakar, N., Razak, R. A., & Lim, H. W. (2016). Pemerolehan klausa relative dalam kalangan kanak-kanak Melayu: Satu kajian awal [The acquisition of relative clauses among Malay children: A preliminary study]. GEMA: Online Journal of Language Studies, 16(3). 145-165. http://doi.org/10.17576/gema-2016-1603-10

  • Al-Zoubi, S. M. (2018). The impact of exposure to English language on language acquisition. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 5(4), 151-162.

  • Aman, N. (2007). The acquisition of Malay wh-questions. Lincom Europa.

  • Brojde, C. L., Ahmed, S., & Colunga, E. (2012). Bilingual and monolingual children attend to different cues when learning new words. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 155. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00155

  • Chung, S. F. (2005). Kena as a third type of the Malay passive. Oceanic Linguistics, 44, 194-214. http://doi.org/10.1353/ol.2005.0017

  • Conti-Ramsden, G., Botting, N., & Faragher, B. (2001). Psycholinguistic markers for specific language impairment. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 741-748. http://doi.org/10.1111/1469-7610.00770

  • Gatt, D., & Dodd, B. (2019). Preschoolers’ lexical skills in two majority languages: Is there any evidence for the onset of sequential bilingualism? International Journal of Bilingualism, 24(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/1367006919826408

  • Hoff, E., & Core, C. (2013). Input and language development in bilingually developing children. Seminars in Speech and Language, 34(4), 215-226. http://doi.org/10.1055/s-0033-1353448

  • Hoff, E., Core, C., Place, S., Rumiche, R., Senor, M., & Parra, M. (2012). Dual language exposure and early bilingual development. Journal of Child Language, 39, 1-27. http://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000910000759

  • Jalaluddin, N. H., Mat Awal, N., & Abu Bakar, K. (2008). The mastery of English language among lower secondary school students in Malaysia: A linguistic analysis. European Journal of Social Sciences, 7(2), 106-119.

  • Kaltsa, M., Prentza A., & Tsimpli, I. M. (2019). Input and literacy effects in simultaneous and sequential bilinguals: The performance of Albanian–Greek-speaking children in sentence repetition. International Journal of Bilingualism, 24(2), 159-183. http://doi.org/10.1177/1367006918819867

  • Kan, P. F., & Kohnert, K. (2005). Preschoolers learning Hmong and English: Lexical semantic skills in L1 and L2. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 48(2), 372-83. http://doi.org/10.1044/1092-4388(2005/026)

  • Kohnert, K. (2010). Bilingual children with primary language impairment: Issues, evidence and implications for clinical actions. Journal of Communication Disorder, 43(6), 456-473. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcomdis.2010.02.002

  • Komeili, M., & Marshall, C. R. (2013). Sentence repetition as a measure of morphosyntax in monolingual and bilingual children. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 27(2), 152-162. http://doi.org/10.3109/02699206.2012.751625

  • Leclercq, A. L., Quémart. P., Magis, D., & Maillart, C. (2014). The sentence repetition task: A powerful diagnostic tool for French children with specific language impairment. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35, 3423-3430. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2014.08.026

  • Long, J. (1993). Pemerolehan imbuhan pada peringkat prasekolah dan implikasinya terhadap pendidikan bahasa [Acquisition of affixation at the preschool level and its implications to language education]. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

  • Marinis, T., & Armon-Lotem, S. (2015). Sentence Repetition. In S. Armon-Lotem, J. D. Jong, & N. Meir (Eds.), Methods for assessing multilingual children: Disentangling bilingualism from Language Impairment (pp. 95-124). Multilingual Matters. https://doi.org/10.21832/9781783093137-007

  • Marinis, T., Chiat, S., & Armon-Lotem, S. (2012). Multi-lingual sentence imitation task (Multi-SIT)-30 sentences. University of Reading.

  • Mat Awal, N., Jalaluddin, N. H., Hamid, N. Z. A., & Abu Bakar, K. (2007, June 14-16). First language influence on second language performance: A study of common English grammatical errors among rural secondary school students [Conference presentation]. The Second Biennial International Conference on Teaching and Learning of English in Asia, Langkawi, Malaysia.

  • Meir, N., Walters, J., & Armon-Lotem, S. (2015). Disentangling SLI and bilingualism using sentence repetition tasks: The impact of L1 and L2 properties. International Journal of Bilingualism, 20(4), 421-452. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367006915609240

  • Montgomery, J., & Evans, J. L. (2009). Complex sentence comprehension and working memory in children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 52(2), 269-288. https://doi.org/10.1044/1092-4388(2008/07-0116)

  • Montgomery, J., Gillam, R. B., Evans, J. L., & Sergeev, A. V. (2017). “Whatdunit?” sentence comprehension abilities of children with SLI: Sensitivity to word order in canonical and noncanonical structures. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 60(9), 2603. https://doi.org/10.1044/2017_jslhr-l-17-0025

  • Montgomery, J., Magimairaj, B., & Finney, M. (2010). Working memory and specific language impairment: An update on the relation and perspectives on assessment and treatment. American Journal of Speech-language Pathology / American Speech-Language Hearing Association, 19, 78-94. https://doi.org/10.1044/1058-0360(2009/09-0028)

  • Montrul, S. (2009). Reexamining the fundamental difference hypothesis: What can early bilinguals tell us? Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 31(2), 225-257. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263109090299

  • Ooi, C. C.-W., & Wong, A. M.-Y. (2012). Assessing bilingual Chinese-English young children in Malaysia using language sample measures. International Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 14(6), 499-508. https://doi.org/10.3109/17549507.2012.712159

  • Orlovska, M., & Rascevska, M. (2014). Construction and psychometric properties of Sentence Repetition Test (SRT) for Latvian primary school children. Journal of Educational and Social Research, 4(4), 104.

  • Paradis, J. (2009). Second language acquisition in childhood. In E. Hoff & M. Shatz (Eds.), Handbook of Language Development (pp. 387-406). Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470757833.ch19

  • Paradis, J. (2010). The interface between bilingual development and specific language impairment. Applied Psycholinguistics, 31, 3-28. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0142716409990373

  • Philip, W. C. H., Coopmans, P., Atteveldt, W., & Van Der Meer, M. (2002). Subject-object assymmetry in child comprehension of wh-questions. In A. H.-J. Do, L. Dominguez & A. Johansen (Eds.), Proceedings of the 25th Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp. 587-598). Cascadilla.

  • Pineo, R. (2014). Sentence repetition performance in bilingual children with SLI compared to age and language-matched peers [Master’s dissertation, McGill University, Montreal]. eScholarship McGill.

  • Polišenská, K., Chiat, S., & Roy, P. (2015). Sentence repetition: What does the task measure? International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 50(1), 106-118. https://doi.org/10.1111/1460-6984.12126

  • Razak, R. A., Neelagandan, A., Md Yusof, N., Lim, H. W., Ahmad, K., & Madison, C. (2018). The validation of the Malay Preschool Language Assessment Tool (MPLAT): The screening and diagnostic versions. Malaysian Journal of Public Health Medicine, Special Issue, 1, 191-115.

  • Riches, N. G. (2012). Sentence repetition in children with specific language impairment: An investigation of underlying mechanisms. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 47(5), 499-510. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-6984.2012.00158.x.

  • Riches, N. G., Loucas, T., Baird, G., Charman, T., & Simonoff, E. (2010). Sentence repetition in adolescents with specific language impairment and autism: An investigation of complex syntax. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 45(1), 47-60. https://doi.org/10.3109/13682820802647676

  • Seeff-Gabriel, B., Chiat, S., & Dodd, B. (2010). Sentence imitation as a tool in identifying expressive morphosyntactic difficulties in children with severe speech difficulties. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorder, 45(6), 691-702. https://doi.org/10.3109/13682820903509432

  • Stokes, S. F., Wong, A. M.-Y., Fletcher, P., & Leonard, L. B. (2006). Nonword repetition and sentence repetition as clinical markers of specific language impairment: The case of Cantonese. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 49(2), 219. https://doi.org/10.1044/1092-4388(2006/019)

  • Theodorou, E., Kambanaros, M., & Grohmann, K. K. (2017). Sentence repetition as a tool for screening morphosyntactic abilities of bilectal children with SLI. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(2104). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02104

  • Thirusanku, J., & Md Yunus, M. (2014). Status of English in Malaysia. Asian Social Science, 10(14). https://doi.org/10.5539/ass.v10n14p254

  • Thordardottir, E. (2011). The relationship between bilingual exposure and vocabulary development. International Journal of Bilingualism, 15(4), 426-445. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367006911403202

  • Thordardottir, E. (2014). The typical development of simultaneous bilinguals: Vocabulary, morphosyntax and language processing in two age groups of Montreal preschoolers. In T. Grüter, & J. Paradis (Eds.), Input and experience in bilingual development (pp. 141-160). John Benjamins. https://doi.org/10.1075/tilar.13.08tho

  • Thordardottir, E., & Brandeker, M. (2013). The effect of bilingual exposure versus language impairment on nonword repetition and sentence imitation scores. Journal of Communication Disorders, 46(1), 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcomdis.2012.08.002

  • Thordardottir, E., Kehayia, E., Mazer, B., Lessard, N., Majnemer, A., Sutton, A., Trudeau, N., & Chilingaryan, G. (2011). Sensitivity and specificity of French language and processing measures for the identification of primary language impairment at age 5. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 54, 580-597. https://doi.org/10.1044/1092-4388(2010/09-0196)

  • Tomasello, M. (2002). The emergence of grammar in early child language. In T. Givón & B. Malle (Eds.), The evolution of language out of prelanguage (pp. 309-328). Benjamins. https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.53.17tom

  • Tomblin, J. B., Records, N. L., Buckwalter, P., Zhang, X., Smith, E., & O’Brien, M. (1997). Prevalence of specific language impairment in kindergarten children. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 40(6), 1245-1260. https://doi.org/10.1044/jslhr.4006.1245

  • Vicari, S., Caselli, M. C., Gagliardi, C., Tonucci, F., & Volterra, V. (2002). Language acquisition in special populations: A comparison between Down and Williams syndromes. Neuropsychologia, 40(13), 2461-2670. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0028-3932(02)00083-0

  • Willis, C., & Gathercole, S. (2001). Phonological short-term memory contributions to sentence processing in young children. Memory, 9, 349-363. https://doi.org/10.1080/09658210143000155

  • Woon, C. P. (2012). Use of nonword and sentence repetition tasks among Mandarin-English bilingual children in Malaysia [Unpublished master’s thesis]. Universiti Putra Malaysia.

  • Woon, C. P., Ngee T. Y., Lim, H. W., & Bee. E. W. (2014). Measuring grammatical development in bilingual Mandarin-English speaking children with a sentence repetition task. Journal of Education and Learning, 3(3). https://doi.org/10.5539/jel.v3n3p144

ISSN 0128-7702

e-ISSN 2231-8534

Article ID


Download Full Article PDF

Share this article

Related Articles