The narrative competence of bilingual jamaican creole– and english-speaking preschoolers

Karla N. Washington*, Carol Westby, Kristina Fritz, Kathryn Margaret Crowe, Rachel Wright Karem, Melanie Basinger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to characterize narrative competence of typically developing bilingual children using Jamaican Creole (JC) and English. Method: Story comprehension and fictional storytelling tasks in JC and English were completed by 104 bilingual preschoolers aged 4–6 years. Story comprehension was analyzed using inferential story comprehension questions representing Blank’s Question Hierarchy. Fictional storytelling was analyzed using the Monitoring Indicators of Scholarly Language framework for narrative macrostructure and microstructure. Results: Story comprehension was significantly correlated within each language, but only questions from Level 4 of Blank’s Question Hierarchy showed significant correlations between languages. Fictional storytelling was significantly better in English than in JC for macrostructure (total score, internal response, plan, consequence) and microstructure (total score, adverbs, elaborated noun phrases). Story complexity in JC and English was significantly correlated. In terms of developmental effects, children’s macrostructure and story complexity appear to be better at 4 years than 5 years, with English outperforming JC. Furthermore, age correlated with story comprehension in JC. Conclusion: Comparison of narrative competence in bilingual children provides much needed insights into language development, with examination of JC and English bilinguals representing an understudied bilingual context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-334
Number of pages18
JournalLanguage, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Other keywords

  • African Americans/psychology
  • Child
  • Child Language
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comprehension
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Language Development
  • Language Tests
  • Male
  • Mental Competency/psychology
  • Multilingualism
  • Narration


Dive into the research topics of 'The narrative competence of bilingual jamaican creole– and english-speaking preschoolers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this