Canadian-born trilingual children’s narrative skills in their heritage language and Canada’s official languages

Rena Helms-Park, Maria Claudia Petrescu, Mihaela Pirvulescu, Vedran Dronjic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study examines the narrative production of 12 trilingual children aged 8;7–11;10 in three languages: heritage Romanian as a first language, mainstream English as a second, and school French as a third. Narrative macrostructure was analyzed via the Narrative Structure Scheme, while microstructure was assessed via story length, lexical diversity, and subordination index. An additional microstructural measure was Guiraud’s index of lexical richness. Results were only partially compatible with monolingual or bilingual findings. Analyses demonstrated that: (i) group macrostructural strength was equal across languages but only as a central tendency; and (ii) while the correlation between Romanian and English macrostructure almost achieved significance, neither was related to French scores. Contrary to the findings of Heilmann et al.’s monolingual study, no microstructural component correlated with macrostructure. Within microstructure, there was no significant difference in sentence complexity (measured through the subordination index) across languages, but scores for lexical diversity and Guiraud’s index were lower in French than in Romanian and English. The findings point to distinctions between trilinguals and both bilinguals and monolinguals, and the possible problem with testing trilinguals for language proficiency or disorders using instruments created for monolinguals. Trial registration:Netherlands National Trial Register identifier: ntr-.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-488
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Multilingualism
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024


  • Childhood trilingualism
  • French immersion
  • Romanian as a heritage language
  • narrative macrostructure
  • narrative microstructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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