The development of coherence and cohesion in monolingual and sequential bilingual children's narratives: Same or different?

Judy R. Kupersmitt, Rachel Yifat, Shoshana Blum Kulka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies of monolingual narrative production have revealed interacting paths in the development of coherence and cohesion across languages but less is known about bilingual narratives, where a gap may exist between socio-cognitive and linguistic abilities. The present longitudinal study explores the relations between measures of coherence and cohesion in the picture-based oral narratives elicited from 23 sequential bilinguals at two times - 2nd and 4th years of exposure to Hebrew as L2 (ages 6 and 8, respectively), compared to those produced by age-matched Hebrew speaking monolinguals. Measures of coherence included reference to story components, and to four types of causal relations: psychological, motivational, enabling and physical. These analyses served as a basis to explore cohesion in terms of (1) inter-clausal connectivity, and (2) the linguistic encoding of the causal chain, which in this context demanded reference to a complex motion event. We found that reference to narrative components and causal relations improved with age in both L1 and L2, but were largely delayed among bilinguals at age 6, particularly regarding the most complex scenes. While coherence measures reached to a parallel level among the 8 year-old children, measures of cohesion showed a different path of development in L1 and L2. Thus, the constraints imposed by language use in organizing the discourse resulted in a poorer connectivity between the clauses, and in less accurate lexico-grammatical encoding of the events in the bilingual narratives. The study underscores the mutual attraction between local and global principles of narrative construction, which may become dissociated in a bilingual situation, and pinpoints to vulnerable domains of L2 discourse-embedded acquisition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-76
Number of pages37
JournalNarrative Inquiry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© John Benjamins Publishing Company.


  • Causal relations
  • Cohesive devices
  • L2 Hebrew
  • Motion
  • Narrative coherence
  • Sequential bilingual children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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