Impact of Narrative Task Complexity and Language on Macrostructure in Bilingual Kindergarten Children

Minna Lipner, Sharon Armon-Lotem, Sveta Fichman, Joel Walters, Carmit Altman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: We investigated the impact of narrative task complexity on macro-structure in both languages of bilingual kindergarten children and the relation-ship of macrostructure across languages to guide practitioners’ choice of assessment tools and aid in interpretation of results. Method: Thirty-nine English–Hebrew bilingual kindergarten children (Mage = 65 months) retold two narratives in each language: A one-episode story and a three-episode story. Stories were coded for macrostructure using five story gram-mar (SG) elements: Internal State-Initiating Event, Goal, Attempt, Outcome, and Internal State-Reaction. Linear mixed and generalized linear mixed models were used to analyze scores for total macrostructure, episode, and SG elements; correlations were conducted to examine cross-language relations in macrostructure. Results: In general, performance on the single-episode story was significantly better than for the three-episode story: Higher percentages of SG elements were produced, with better performance in the home language/English. In addition to Task and Language effects, Age and Episode (Episodes 1/2/3 of the three-episode story vs. one-episode story) emerged as predictors of macrostructure. Performance on the different episodes of the three-episode story varied, with Episode 3 yielding scores similar to those on the one-episode story. Children produced more Attempts and Outcomes than other SG elements. Finally, the total macrostructure scores yielded low to moderate correlations across languages for both one-episode and three-episode stories, but there were no significant cross-task (one-episode/three-episode story) correlations. Conclusions: The study illustrates the importance of task complexity in narrative performance. Ideally, assessment should include a variety of tools, which would include narratives varying in complexity. However, time constraints do not always permit this luxury. The findings here may offer more to therapists than to diagnosticians. Narratives should be manipulated for episodic complexity not only in the number of episodes but also with regard to characters, goals, feelings, and reactions to events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)545-560
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools
Issue number2
StatePublished - 11 Apr 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Speech and Hearing
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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