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The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism, 2nd Edition by William C. Ritchie, Tej K. Bhatia

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Bilingualism and Writing Systems

BENEDETTA BASSETTI

Research on bilingualism and writing systems is a recent enterprise, as shown by the appearance of a chapter devoted to the topic in this new edition of the Handbook. Interest in the topic is due to various reasons, from the theoretical interests of psychologists working on the universality of models of reading, to the practical concerns of educators dealing with bilingual children acquiring literacy in a second language.

Users of different writing systems differ in reading, writing, literacy acquisition, metalinguistic awareness, and nonlinguistic cognition. This leads to the question of how knowledge of more than one writing system affects biliterate bilinguals, that is, speakers of more than one language who are literate in more than one language. This chapter will introduce some basic concepts and will then overview three topics: first, bilinguals’ reading, writing, and learning of writing systems; second, how biliterates differ from monoliterates; and finally the metalinguistic and cognitive consequences of biliteracy. The main idea behind the chapter is that knowledge of two writing systems changes bilinguals’ minds, and that biliterates differ from monoliterates.

Basic Concepts and Terminology

Writing Systems

Each language is written with its own writing system, e.g., the French writing system or the English writing system (for a more detailed treatment of the issues that are going to be described in this section, see ...

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