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Narratives of Russian–German preschool and primary school bilinguals: Rasskaz and Erzaehlung

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 December 2015

Center for General Linguistics (ZAS) Berlin
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Natalia Gagarina, Center for General Linguistics (ZAS), Schuetzenstrasse 18, Berlin 10117, Germany. E-mail:


The goal of this study was to trace the dual language development of the narrative macrostructure in three age groups of Russian–German bilingual children and to compare the performance of simultaneous and sequential bilinguals. Fine-grained analyses of macrostructure included three components: story structure, story complexity, and internal state terms. Oral narratives were elicited via the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives. Fifty-eight Russian–German speaking bilingual children from three age groups participated: preschoolers (mean age = 45 months) and elementary school pupils (mean age first grade = 84 months, mean age third grade = 111 months); and there were 34 simultaneous and 24 sequential bilinguals. The results showed significant improvement for all three components of macrostructure between the preschool and first-grade period. Additional significant development from first to third graders was found only for story complexity in Russian. This is explained by the Russian curriculum explicitly teaching narrative skills during early literacy training. In the two older groups, simultaneous bilinguals showed advantages over sequential bilinguals, for story complexity only. This finding suggests considering bilingual type when evaluating narrative skills of bilinguals. The results indicate cross-language association of only some components of narrative score across languages. The findings support the examination of various constituents of macrostructure when evaluating its development as well as the progression of narrative skills.

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