assessment of second language proficiency in bilingual children with specific language impairment: a...
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Childrenwith specic language impairment (SLI) are diagnosed as exhibiting a signicant decit in the production and/orcomprehension of language that cannot be explained by general cognitive impairment, sensory-motor decits, neurologicaldisorder, psychiatric diagnosis or a general lack of exposure to language (Leonard, 1998). Children with SLI have limited
Research in Developmental Disabilities 32 (2011) 17981807
Available online 8 May 2011
Specic language impairment
of typically developing monolingual Dutch children, typically developing bilingual
children, and monolingual Dutch children with SLI. Assuming that speaking a language in
varying environments involves distinct subskills that can be acquired in differential
patterns, the achievement of phonological, lexical, morphosyntactic and textual abilities
were assessed separately. For each of these abilities, it was determined to what extent the
conditions of restricted input (rst vs. second language) and language decit (typically
developing vs. SLI) cause stagnation or a delay in language acquisition. Bilingual children
with SLI perform at a lower level than the other groups in almost all aspects of
achievement in Dutch. For language tasks related to the mental lexicon and grammar, an
additional disadvantage was evidenced as a result of the combination of learning Dutch as
second language and having SLI.
2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Research in Developmental Disabilitieslinguistic ability, their language development is delayed. Exclusion criteria are often used to identify this population. It isestimated that 6% of children in the general population have SLI, although there is considerable heterogeneity among thelanguage proles of these children (Law, Boyle, Harris, Harkness, & Nye, 1998; VanWeerdenburg, Verhoeven, & van Balkom,2006). Prominent problems among children with SLI are in the areas of morpho-syntax, phonology, and lexicon (Bishop,1997). Firstly, morpho-syntactic difculties have most extensively been investigated in different languages (see Leonard,2000). A common problem of children with SLI that is seen in different languages concerns verb morphology. Because manychildren with SLI have morpho-syntactic problems, it is sometimes referred to as typical SLI (e.g., Bishop, 2004). Secondly,many studies have focused on phonological abilities of children with SLI. Such research showed for example that childrenwith SLI cannot discriminate and process sounds adequately (Bishop, 1997). In addition, children with SLI have been shownto have expressive phonological problems, often referred to as verbal dyspraxia (Bishop, 2004; Rapin, 1996). Finally, childrenAssessment of second language prociency in bilingual children withspecic language impairment: A clinical perspective
Ludo Verhoeven *, Judit Steenge, Marjolijn van Weerdenburg, Hans van Balkom
Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, Montessorilaan 3, 6525 HR Nijmegen, The Netherlands
A R T I C L E I N F O
Received 11 March 2011
Accepted 13 March 2011
A B S T R A C T
The goal of this study was to examine to what extent the conditions of restricted input of
L2 and SLI have an additive impact on language acquisition. Therefore, the Dutch language
achievement of 6-, 7-, and 8-year-old bilingual children with SLI was compared with thatwith SLI have been shown to exhibit lexical problems, such as difculties in acquiring newwords and in word nding. Mostlexical problems, however, co-occur with syntactical difculties (see Leonard & Deevy, 2004).
* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: L.Verhoeven@pwo.ru.nl (L. Verhoeven).
0891-4222/$ see front matter 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2011.03.010
L. Verhoeven et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 32 (2011) 17981807 1799The language acquisition of children with SLI is especially at risk for those who belong to minority groups. Most childrenfrom ethnic minorities in the Netherlands are confronted with the task of communicating in the dominant language of amajority environment in order to cope with daily life. Usually, this language is learned as a second language (L2). Such acontext is called a submersion context. The language situation of most minority children can be characterized as emergentbilingualismwith the rst language being built up during the preschool years as the result of linguistic input in L1-speakinghomes and the second language later coming into play via L2 playmates and the school. It can thus be assumed that childrenreceiving restricted L2 input experience difculty in obtaining native-like prociency levels in their second language. This iswhat indeed has been found in the literature with a great deal of individual variation being reported (August & Shanahan,2006; Genesee, Paradis, & Crago, 2004).
The problem of L2 acquisition in bilingual childrenwith SLI has been addressed in only a few studies (Schiff-Myers, 1992).Bruck (1982) explored the cognitive and linguistic abilities of children with language impairment attending Frenchimmersion programmes, in which English speaking children followed education in French as their second language. Aftertwo years of instruction in a second language, she found their L1 cognitive and linguistic skills to be at a similar level to thoseof a comparable group of childrenwith SLI whowere educated in their rst language. The second language prociency levels,however, were below those of children without SLI in French immersion programmes. Restrepo (1998) made an attempt toidentify a set of measures discriminating predominantly Spanish-speaking children (learning English as a second language)with typical language development and with SLI. Measures of vocabulary, bound-morpheme learning skills and languageformwere administered, alongwith parent questionnaires on the childs language achievement and family history of speechand language problems. The followingmeasures turned out to discriminate between bilingual childrenwith andwithout SLI:parental report of the childs speech and language skills, family history of speech and language problems, mean length ofutterances and the number of errors per utterance. In studies by Crutchley, Botting, and Conti-Ramsden (1997) and Crutchley(1999), the language achievement of bilingual children with SLI and monolingual children with SLI in English as a rst andsecond language was compared. Overall, the bilingual children had lower scores than their monolingual peers onstandardized language assessment measures in the domains of vocabulary and grammar. The researchers found that thebilingual children were more likely to have language difculties in complex language skills like morphology and grammarthan in phonological skills.
From research on SLI and bilingualism conducted so far, wemust conclude that a coherent picture of the acquisition of L2in bilingual children with SLI is generally lacking. In most studies, the L1 achievement level of monolingual children wascompared with the L2 achievement level of bilingual children. No attempt has been made to take into account theachievement levels of monolingual and bilingual children with and without language impairment in the same design.Moreover, insofar as language data have been compared, only a few linguistic domains were taken into account. Studiesproviding a full account of the speech and language achievement ofmonolingual and bilingual childrenwith andwithout SLIstill are extremely scarce.
The present study can be seen as a clinical attempt to shed light on the second language difculties of bilingual childrenwith SLI in the Netherlands. Empirical studies on young L2 learners in the Netherlands have demonstrated that in the vastmajority of cases, bilingual children have no serious problems in acquiring phonological skills, such as articulation. However,in the linguistic domains of lexicon, morphology, and syntax, bilingual children often appear to fall behind their native peers(Driessen, van der Slik, & de Bot (2002); Lalleman, 1986; Verhoeven & Narain, 1996; Verhoeven & Vermeer, 1996). In thepresent study, an attempt was made to nd out to what extent the conditions of restricted input of L2 and SLI have anadditive impact on language acquisition. Therefore, the Dutch language achievement of 6-, 7-, and 8-year-old bilingualchildren with SLI (Bili-SLI) was compared with that of three control groups of children in the same age-range: (1) typicallydeveloping monolingual Dutch children (Mono-TD), (2) typically developing bilingual children (Bili-TD), and (3)monolingual Dutch children with SLI (Mono-SLI). We did not conceive of language prociency as a monolithic ability,but assumed that speaking a language in varying environments involves distinct subskills that can be acquired in differentialpatterns (MacWhinney, 1992). Accordingly, the achievement of phonological, lexical, morphosyntactic and textual abilitieswere assessed separately. For each of these abilities, it was determined to what extent the conditions of restricted input (L1vs. L2) and language decit (typically developing vs. SLI) cause stagnation or a delay in language acquisition.
A total of 1108 children, divided over the Bili-SLI group and three control groups, participated in this study. The Bili-SLIgroup consisted of 74 bilingual children (54 boys, 20 girls), learning Dutch as a second language, with SLI. The childrenoriginated from three minority groups: Turkish (n = 34), Moroccan (n = 27), and Surinamese (n = 13). The childrens agesvaried from 67 to 103 months (M = 85 months).