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Name:   Dana David
Degree & Year: PhD, Year 2
Program: School and Clinical Child Psychology
Department: Human Development and Applied Psychology
Supervisor: Dr. Esther Geva
Why you picked OISE: For the unique program with a dual emphasis, the highly renowned faculty, and to specifically work with my supervisor.
Name of your award: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada - Canada Graduate Scholarship
Thesis/Research Project: “Development of Morphological Awareness in English-Speaking Children Learning Hebrew as a Second Language”

1) Does MA in children learning Hebrew as a second language follow a similar MA developmental course to that of native Hebrew speakers?
2) Does English MA predict Hebrew MA across time and above other significantly contributing factors (e.g., vocabulary)? And vice versa? Further, which aspects of MA predict reading in each language?
3) Do children with less exposure to Hebrew as an L2 have a more poorly developed MA in comparison to children with more exposure to Hebrew as an L2?
Background: I completed my BAH at Queen’s University in psychology and my MEd at Queen’s in cognitive studies with a focus on early reading development. I am a first-generation Canadian who grew up exposed to various languages from a young age and agree with the world of research that more controlled experimental studies in the area of second language and literacy acquisition and development are necessary in order to fully comprehend how to best instruct children learning more than one language. Given the multilingual country we live in, this is necessary.

Your work: My research aims are to assist in addressing the notion that Canada is a multilingual country and there is still much to learn and understand regarding the development of language and literacy in children speaking and/or learning multiple languages.

The issues: Research has demonstrated that morphological awareness of children in the elementary grades makes a significant contribution to their reading ability (e.g., Carlisle, 2000; Leong, 2000). Morphemes are parts of words (sometimes full words) that represent the smallest units in language that contain meaning (Carlisle, 2000). Morphological awareness refers to conscious reflection about morphology that may assist with deriving meaning from words and making connections between words. While it is known that MA supports literacy skills in the elementary grades, until recently it has only been investigated within one language at a time (e.g., Carlisle, 2000; Deacon & Kirby, 2004, Ravid, 2001).

Deacon, Wade-Woolley and Kirby (2006) demonstrated that there was both within and cross-language contributions of MA to English and French reading in French Immersion children. However, Saiegh-Haddad and Geva (in press), in a study investigating EL1 children learning Arabic as an L2 suggest that these relationships may not be universal. This lends to the idea that cross-linguistic contributions of MA across languages may be more specific across similar orthographies. These studies are the beginning of necessary developmental cross-linguistic and bilingual research investigating the relationship between MA and reading in order to determine what specific aspects of MA are universal across languages and which may be constrained within particular languages.
The languages that Deacon et al. investigated share an orthography (the Latin alphabet) and have similar morphological structure while the languages researched by Saiegh-Haddad and Geva have different morphological structures; therefore, in order to investigate the extent to which MA transfers across languages, more research is warranted between English and a language with a different orthographic and morphological structure. Another good candidate for such an investigation is Hebrew.

Importance/application: Determining whether there is a difference between native speakers of English learning Hebrew as a second language and monolingual English speakers (control group) will address the issue of whether learning an L2 with a more complex morpho-syntax enhances MA in the L1. Further, results will allow for a cross-sectional and longitudinal delineation of the development of MA in English speaking children learning a second language that contains a contrasting deep orthography.
As well, results will add important knowledge to current models of morphology in reading, build on the present knowledge of second language acquisition, and importantly, assist in the development of early MA instruction, especially for second language learners. Further, this research is necessary to construct MA materials for children developing reading skills in two languages simultaneously so that they can receive instruction in reading that will have direct positive outcomes on their reading ability in both languages.

The idea: My doctoral research is a longitudinal cross-sectional study set to answer three main questions regarding the development of morphological awareness (MA; the conscious reflection about morphology that may assist with deriving meaning from words and making connections between words) in English-speaking children learning Hebrew as a second language: