Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 12

Available online at www.sciencedirect.

com

Journal of Communication Disorders 43 (2010) 511522

Narrative abilities in monolingual and dual language learning


children with specific language impairment
Patricia L. Cleave a,*, Luigi E. Girolametto b, Xi Chen b, Carla J. Johnson b
a
Dalhousie University, Human Communication Disorders, 5599 Fenwick Street, Halifax, NS, Canada B3H 1R2
b
University of Toronto, Canada
Received 6 October 2009; received in revised form 14 May 2010; accepted 19 May 2010

Abstract
Purpose: The aim of this study was to compare narrative abilities in children with specific language impairment (SLI) who are
monolingual and those who are dual language learners.
Method: The participants were 26 children with SLI, 14 monolingual English speakers and 12 dual language learners. The dual
language learners were English dominant and spoke a variety of other languages in the home. The two SLI groups were compared
using standardized tests and measures from two narrative samples.
Results: Compared to the monolingual children, the dual language learners achieved lower scores on standardized tests of
morphosyntax but not on measures of language form derived from the narrative samples. Both groups achieved below average
scores on productivity, narrative structure, literate language, and language form measures from the narrative samples.
Conclusion: The data suggest that narrative samples can be a sensitive way to assess the language skills of dual language learners with
specific language impairment. Furthermore, the findings are consistent with the position that English standardized tests may be a biased
assessment measure when used with dual language learners, particularly for the assessment of expressive morphosyntactic skills.
Learning outcomes: Readers will be able to (1) describe the narrative abilities of typically developing dual language learners;
(2) describe similarities between the narrative abilities of children with SLI who are monolingual and dual language learners; (3)
identify ways to analyses narratives at a variety of levels.
# 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

1.1. Purpose

We live in an increasingly multicultural/multilingual world. Global mobility and an increased concern about the
loss of indigenous languages have resulted in changes to the caseloads of many speech-language pathologists.
Specifically, there is an increase in the number of children requiring language services who are multilingual (Jordaan,
2008). There have been many who have written about the special considerations these children require (e.g., Battle,
2002; Bedore & Pena, 2008; Genesee, Paradis, & Crago, 2004; Gutierrez-Clellen, 1999; Kohnert, 2008; Roseberry-
McKibbin & OHanlon, 2005). We will use the term dual language learners to refer to bilingual children who are

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 902 494 5157; fax: +1 902 494 5151.
E-mail address: pcleave@dal.ca (P.L. Cleave).

0021-9924/$ see front matter # 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jcomdis.2010.05.005
512 P.L. Cleave et al. / Journal of Communication Disorders 43 (2010) 511522

learning English simultaneously with a different language in the home or sequentially, after their home language has
been acquired (Genesee et al., 2004). Although the research base is growing, there are relatively few empirical studies
describing the course of language development in dual language learners who have language impairments and most
have focused primarily on morphosyntactic or semantic skills (see Pena & Bedore, 2008 for a review). Furthermore,
most of these studies have focused on groups of children who speak two specific languages such as Spanish/English or
French/English. While some speech-language pathologists caseloads may include a dominant language pairing such
as French/English or Spanish/English, many others have caseloads with children from many different language
backgrounds. The objective of this study is to compare the English narrative abilities of monolingual English-speaking
children with specific (or primary) language impairment (SLI) and dual language learners with SLI who are English
dominant but speak another language in the home.

1.2. Children with specific language impairment

Children with SLI demonstrate below average language development despite scoring within normal limits on tests
of nonverbal cognition, displaying normal hearing and social/emotional development, and having no evidence of frank
neurological deficits (Leonard, 1998). SLI affects an estimated 7.4% of the kindergarten population (Tomblin et al.,
1997). Although often identified in the preschool or early school age years, a language impairment is generally long
standing and can have a serious impact on future academic achievement and social-emotional development (e.g.,
Beitchman et al., 2001; Johnson et al., 1999). Children with SLI are a heterogenous group in terms of language profile
in that the areas of language that are impacted may vary considerably. These children may present with difficulties in a
number of different language domains, including semantic, morphosyntactic, pragmatic, and discourse skills in oral
and/or written language (Leonard, 1998; Schwartz, 2009). Specific language impairment has been less extensively
studied in dual language learners. However, existing studies suggest that the patterns of difficulties observed are
similar to those observed in monolingual children with SLI learning the same languages (Gutierrez-Clellen, Simon-
Cereijido, & Wagner, 2008; Paradis, Crago, Genesee, & Rice, 2003; Pena, Iglesias, & Lidz, 2001).

1.2.1. Narratives and SLI


Narrative development is one language domain in which weaknesses have been consistently found in children with
SLI (Boudreau, 2007; Catts, Fey, Zhang, & Tomblin, 2001). Studies have shown difficulties in both production and
comprehension of narratives, and in micro (e.g., utterance complexity, lexical diversity) and macro (e.g., story
structure) elements of narrative formulation (see Boudreau, 2007 for a review). Understanding more about narrative
development in dual language learners and/or monolingual children with SLI is important for a number of reasons.
First, narrative abilities have been found to be linked to literacy development and academic achievement in typically
developing children (Dickinson & Tabors, 2001). Second, narrative skills is an area of oral language in which delays
are less likely to resolve over time (Girolametto, Wiigs, Smyth, Weitzman, & Pearce, 2001; Manhardt & Rescorla,
2002). Third, narrative skills have been found to be a predictor of language progress (Botting, Faragher, Simkin, Knox,
& Conti-Ramsden, 2001). Fourth, narratives provide a rich source of information about a childs language skills. In
addition to narrative-specific elements, such as story structure elements, a variety of linguistic abilities can be assessed.
For example, narratives can yield information about a childs use of decontextualized, literate language features
(Curenton & Justice, 2004). Finally, narratives have been recommended as a less biased method of language
assessment for dual language learners as they are a more naturalistic means of collecting and examining linguistic
performance (Laing & Kamhi, 2003; Pena, Summer, & Resendiz, 2007; Rojas & Iglesia, 2009).

1.3. Narratives in dual language learners

Narrative abilities in typically developing dual language learners have been explored by several researchers who
have typically asked dual language learners to tell stories in both of their languages. Fiestas and Pena (2004) compared
the narratives produced in English and Spanish by 12 Spanish/English balanced dual language learners between the
ages of 4 and 6. In this study, the children told stories based on wordless picture books. There were no differences in
overall story grammar ratings between the two stories, although there were some differences in aspects of story
grammar. Specifically, initiating events and attempts were included more often in Spanish narratives while
consequences were included more often in English narratives. No differences were found between the English and
P.L. Cleave et al. / Journal of Communication Disorders 43 (2010) 511522 513

Spanish narratives in terms of the number of words, the number of communication units, the length of communication
units, or the proportion of grammatical utterances.
Gutierrez-Clellen (2002) also examined narratives collected from Spanish/English dual language learners but this
study focused on narrative recall and responses to comprehension questions. In addition to using parent and teacher
reports to determine that the 7- and 8-year-old children were bilingual, Gutierrez-Clellen confirmed that the children
were able to produce narratives with grammatical utterances in both languages when telling stories based on wordless
picture books. The proportion of grammatical utterances was 86% for English and 85% for Spanish. However, on both
story recall and responses to comprehension questions, the analyses revealed higher scores in English than in Spanish.
A longitudinal study of narrative skills and vocabulary development in bilingual Spanish/English children between
Kindergarten and Grade 1 was completed by Uccelli and Paez (2007). Narratives were elicited in both languages using
a three-picture sequence and scored for productivity (number of words and number of different words) and quality
(linguistic and story structure measures). The results revealed higher story structure scores in English versus Spanish
narratives. However, no differences were reported for productivity or linguistic measures.
Two studies have included comparisons to narratives produced by monolingual children. English-language
narratives of 6- and 7-year-old Filipino American children were examined by Lofranco, Pena, and Bedore (2006). The
children were all dominant in English according to parental report; however, they were exposed to Filipino at home.
Although the main focus of the study was comparing narratives collected using different stimuli, the researchers also
compared the English-language narratives to normative data and data from other studies. They reported that the
childrens mean length of utterance in morphemes (MLU-m) and type-token ratio (TTR) were comparable to
normative data and that the number of words, number of clauses, and complexity of clauses were consistent with data
from a previous study using the same stimuli to elicit narratives from monolingual English children. Thus, the dual
language learners in this study produced narratives that were similar to those of monolingual children in terms of
syntactic and semantic skills.
Finally, Pearson (2002) reported on a comparative study of the narrative skills of monolingual and dual language
learners. This was part of a large study (Oller & Eilers, 2002) in which 952 English monolingual and Spanish/English
dual language learners in Kindergarten, Grade 2, and Grade 5 were assessed on a battery of language and literacy
measures. The narrative component of the study included children in Grades 2 and 5 only. There were 80 dual language
learners who were receiving English Immersion schooling, 80 dual language learners who were receiving bilingual
education, and 80 monolingual children. Narratives were elicited using a wordless picture book. Both a story score
(e.g., story elements, sequencing, reference use) and language score (e.g., complex syntax, morphosyntactic accuracy)
were calculated. The study revealed that, for English narratives, the monolingual children received higher scores in
Grade 2, particularly for the language scores. The differences had largely disappeared by Grade 5. Additionally, the
English narratives produced by the dual language learners received higher scores than the Spanish ones. Again, the
difference was in the language score rather than the story score.
It is difficult to draw firm conclusions about the links between dual language learning and narrative skills as the data
are limited both in terms of the number of studies and the languages studied (i.e., all but one involved SpanishEnglish
dual language learners in the United States). However, the evidence does suggest that for typically developing
children, dual language learning appears to have relatively little impact on narrative skills. Some studies reported that
the childrens productive narrative skills were similar in their two languages (Fiestas & Pena, 2004; Gutierrez-Clellen,
2002). Others have found that the dual language learners displayed stronger skills in English narratives (Pearson, 2002;
Uccelli & Paez, 2007). In those studies reporting differences, one found differences in structure measures but not
productivity or language form (Uccelli & Paez, 2007) while the other found differences in measures of language form
but not narrative structure (Pearson, 2002). Finally, there have been contradictory findings when the narrative skills of
monolingual and dual language learners have been compared. Lofranco et al. (2006) reported that the skills of dual
language learners were on par when compared to monolingual children but Pearson (2002) found that the dual
language learners in her study displayed weaker language form skills than the monolingual children in Grade 2.
However, these differences had disappeared by Grade 5.

1.4. The current study

While there is some research on narrative abilities in typically developing dual language learners, no studies
were identified in which the narratives of monolingual children with SLI and dual language learners with SLI
514 P.L. Cleave et al. / Journal of Communication Disorders 43 (2010) 511522

were compared. Therefore, the current study sought to explore this issue. Specifically, it explored the question
of whether the narratives of monolingual children with SLI differed from those of dual language learners
with SLI.

2. Methods

2.1. Participants

Twenty-six children participated in this study. The participants included 14 monolingual speakers of English
(ML group) and 12 dual language learners (DLL group) who, based on parent report, were exposed to another
language in the home at least 25% of the time and spoke that language at least 10% of the time. In addition, all
dual language learners were English dominant according to parent report. The children were recruited from the
active caseloads or waiting lists of clinical service providers in two Canadian cities, Toronto and Halifax. The
speech-language pathologists referring children to the study had experience assessing and treating dual language
learners with language impairments. Inclusionary criteria included nonverbal cognitive abilities within normal
limits (i.e., standard score greater than 80), as measured by the Columbia Mental Maturity Scale (CMMS;
Burgemeister, Hollander Blum, & Lorge, 1972), and a language disorder as defined by a score at least one
standard deviation below the mean on the core language subtests of the Clinical Evaluation of Language
Fundamentals Preschool 2 (CELF-P2; Wiig, Secord, & Semel, 2004). Two additional measures were
administered to further describe the language abilities of the sample. The Structured Photographic Expressive
Language Test Preschool 2 (SPELT-P2; Dawson et al., 2005) was administered to assess expressive
morphosyntactic skills. All participants scored at least one standard score deviation below the mean on this test. In
addition, all children also scored one standard deviation below the mean on their mean length of utterance in
morphemes (MLU-m), taken from a language sample (Miller, 1981). None of the children had sensory disabilities,
oral motor problems, frank neurological problems, or socio-emotional difficulties as determined informally by the
referring speech-language pathologist. For the 12 dual language learners, the diagnosis of language disorder was
also based on parental concern and parental report of a concomitant delay in the childs first language acquisition.
The average percentage of time that the dual language learners spoke another language was 24.9% (standard
deviation 10.0, range 1050%). The average percentage of time that the children heard another language was
50.9% (standard deviation 17.3, range 2575%). There were a variety of home languages spoken, including
Spanish (3), Portuguese (3), Tamil, Cantonese, Mandarin + Hebrew, Somali, Twi, and Sinhala. The monolingual
group (ML) was comprised of 14 children who spoke only English. Tables 1 and 2 summarize the childrens
demographic information and information about their families.

Table 1
Childrens demographic characteristics.
Child characteristic Monolingual group (n = 14) Dual language group (n = 12)
Age (in months), Mean (SD) 52.2 (3.6) 52.9 (3.5)
CMMSa Standard Score, Mean (SD) 96.5 (10.1) 97.3 (8.5)
CELF-P2b Core Language Standard Score, Mean (SD) 77.4 (6.1) 69.4 (9.2)
CELF-P2 Sentence Structure Standard Score, Mean (SD) 6.5 (2.2) 5.4 (2.3)
CELF-P2 Expressive Vocabulary Standard Score, Mean (SD) 7.2 (1.8) 5.8 (1.8)
CELF-P2 Word Structure Standard Score, Mean (SD) 7.7 (1.6) 3.1 (1.8)
SPELT-P2c Standard Score, Mean (SD) 70.5 (12.2) 59.2 (11.5)
School program
# in child care 3 3
# in Junior Kindergartend 11 8
# No program 0 1
a
CMMS = Columbia Mental Maturity Scales (mean = 100, standard deviation = 15).
b
CELF-P2 = Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals Preschool 2 (mean = 100, standard deviation = 15 for Core Language score;
mean = 10, standard deviation = 3 for subtests).
c
SPELT-P2 = Structured Preschool Expressive Language Test Preschool 2 (mean = 100, standard deviation = 15).
d
Junior Kindergarten is a half-day program offered to 4-year-olds in the province of Ontario.
P.L. Cleave et al. / Journal of Communication Disorders 43 (2010) 511522 515

Table 2
Parent and family demographic characteristics.
Parent/family characteristic Monolingual group (n = 14) Dual language group (n = 12)
Mothers Age (in years), Mean (SD) 34.2 (4.0) 34.7 (7.1)
Fathers Age (in years),a Mean (SD) 36.7 (4.3) 37.8 (5.6)
Mothers education
# Grade 8 or less 0 0
# Some High school 0 2
# High school degree 3 5
# College/university courses 0 0
# College degree 5 4
# Undergraduate degree 5 1
# Graduate degree 1 0
Fathers educationa
# Grade 8 or less 0 1
# Some High school 0 1
# High school degree 2 4
# College/university courses 0 0
# College degree 5 3
# Undergraduate degree 4 2
# Graduate degree 1 0
Family income (estimated),b Mean (SD) $32,555 $30,818
a
Age, education, and occupation data were missing for two fathers in the monolingual group and one father in the dual language learners group
(single parent families).
b
Income estimated based on postal code.

2.2. Procedures

Prior to referral to the study, the speech-language pathologists from the referring agencies administered the CELF-
P2. Following referral, a battery of tests was administered to the children over two testing sessions of approximately
1 h each. During the first session, a 15-min language sample of parentchild book reading was collected. Next, a
research assistant administered the CMMS (Burgemeister et al., 1972) and the Renfrew Bus Story (Cowley &
Glasgow, 1994). Parents received a questionnaire about the childs developmental and family history to complete and
return at the second session. During the second session, scheduled 1 week later, the questionnaire was collected and a
second 15-min language sample of parent-child free play with play dough was collected. Next, a research assistant
administered the SPELT-P2 (Dawson et al., 2005). Finally, a narrative sample was elicited using Story A3 from the
Edmonton Narrative Norms Instrument (ENNI; Schneider, Dube, & Hayward, 2005).

2.2.1. Narrative outcome measures


The childrens narrative skills were assessed using two different tasks to elicit narratives. The Renfrew Bus Story
(Cowley & Glasgow, 1994) was used to elicit a story retelling from each participant. In this test, the examiner told a
predetermined story to the child as they both looked at 12 sequenced pictures depicting the story. The child was then
asked to retell that story with support from the pictures. The Bus Story narrative was scored for key content elements,
as per the test manual, to derive a raw score for Information. The second task involved Story A3 of the ENNI
(Schneider et al., 2005). In this task, 13 pictures that illustrated a story were presented to the child. The child was then
asked to make up a story about the pictures and tell it to the examiner who could not see the pictures. This narrative task
yielded a raw score for Story Grammar elements (e.g., setting, problem, action, direct consequence) that was
determined according to the test instructions. In addition, for both stories, the total number of utterances was
determined as a measure of productivity. The language form used by the children was examined in a number of ways.
A Complexity Index (i.e., mean number of clauses per communication unit (C-unit)) was calculated following the
instructions of the ENNI and two measures of grammatical accuracy were calculated. The first, grammaticality, was
calculated as the percentage of complete and intelligible utterances that were error-free. All language form errors were
counted under this measure including errors involving verb tense, pronoun case, articles, prepositions, etc. The second
516 P.L. Cleave et al. / Journal of Communication Disorders 43 (2010) 511522

measure was the percentage of finite verbs in complete and intelligible utterances that were correct. Finally, following
the system used by Curenton and Justice (2004), five literate language features were examined; simple noun phrases
(i.e., one modifier + noun), complex noun phrases (i.e., two or more modifiers + noun), adverbs, conjunctions, and
mental and linguistic verbs (e.g., think, know, say, etc.). Curenton and Justice included utterance-initial and in their
conjunction count. This system included a number of uses of and, which were deemed to be functioning as an
introducer rather than a true conjunction. Thus, a second conjunction tally was completed in which utterance-initial
and was excluded. For each feature, the number produced per utterance was calculated.

2.2.2. Transcription and scoring


A research assistant transcribed both the ENNI and Bus Story narratives produced by the children using the
SALT software (Miller & Chapman, 2002). Twenty percent of the narratives for both the ENNI and the Bus
Story were randomly selected and transcribed independently by a second research assistant for reliability
purposes. Both research assistants were blind to the test times and the objectives of the study. Interrater
reliability was calculated at the utterance boundary level (i.e., was the segmentation of utterances accurate?) and
at the word level (i.e., was each word correctly transcribed?). Reliability was calculated using the following
formula: number of agreements/(the number agreements + disagreements)  100 (Sackett, 1978) and yielded
91.5% for words (n = 1929 words) and 92.2% for utterance boundaries (n = 487 utterances) for the ENNI
transcripts and 91.4% for words (n = 2007 words) and 96.5% for utterance boundaries (n = 511 utterances) for the
Bus Story transcripts.
A research assistant subsequently scored the ENNI Story A3 narratives for story grammar elements, according to
the instructions provided by the test developers (Schneider et al., 2005). The Bus Story narratives were similarly
scored for Information units, according to the instructions in the test manual (Cowley & Glasgow, 1994). Twenty
percent each of the ENNI narratives and Bus Story narratives were then randomly selected and rescored by a second
research assistant to provide reliability estimates. The interrater reliabilities were 92.0% for the ENNI Story Grammar
raw scores and 89.0% for the Bus Story Information raw scores. Similarly, 10% of the ENNI and Bus Story narratives
were double scored for literate language features. The interrater reliabilities for the five features coded were 95.0% for
simple noun phrases, 75.0% for complex noun phrases, 86.0% for adverbs, 93.0% for conjunctions and 100% for
mental state verbs. The reliability for complex noun phrases was low because there were few exemplars and the
percentage was adversely affected by a few errors.

3. Results

To explore the relationship of dual language learning with the childrens narrative skills, a series of analyses were
conducted. Demographic measures were compared first. The childrens performance on standardized tests and the
narrative measures were examined next. A significance level of .05 was set for all analyses. Effect sizes for significant
group comparisons are reported using h2 (Lavine & Hullett, 2002) for parametric analyses and the probability index
(Acion, Peterson, Temple, & Arndt, 2006) for nonparametric analyses.
The first group comparisons were completed on demographic measures using t-tests for measures involving interval
data and MannWhitney U-tests for measures involving categorical data. The group means are presented in Tables 1
and 2. The two groups of children (dual language learners, monolingual) did not differ in chronological age (t24 = .50,
p = .62; h2 = .01), school attendance (U = 74.0, N1 = 14, N2 = 12, p = .63; P(ML > DLL) = .56), mothers age
(t24 = .20, p = .84; h2 = .002), fathers age (t24 = .56, p = .59; h2 = .01), or family income estimated from postal codes
(t24 = .66, p = .51; h2 = .01). However, the groups did differ in terms of mothers education (U = 40.0, N1 = 14,
N2 = 12, p = .02, P(ML > DLL) = .76) and fathers education (U = 35.5, N1 = 12, N2 = 11, p = .05,
P(ML > DLL) = .73). Effect sizes for the education comparisons were medium (Cohen, 1998). The data indicate
that the monolingual children had parents with higher levels of education than the dual language learners. Data on the
fathers were unavailable for three of the children.
The next set of comparisons examined the childrens performance on standardized tests. The group means are
presented in Table 1. Because the two groups of children differed on parents education level, it was important to
control for this. Mothers education was chosen as the covariate for these analyses because data were available for all
children for this measure. ANCOVAs revealed that the groups did not differ on nonverbal cognitive skills as measured
by the CMMS standard score (F(1,23) = .61, p = .44; h2 = .025) but the groups did differ on both language tests
P.L. Cleave et al. / Journal of Communication Disorders 43 (2010) 511522 517

administered, the CELF-P2 (F(1,23) = 4.45, p = .04; h2 = .149) and SPELT-P2 (F(1,23) = 4.15, p = .05; h2 = .145).
The effect sizes for the language tests were medium (Cohen, 1998). The data in Table 1 indicate that the monolingual
English children obtained higher scores on these two tests than the dual language learners. As the CELF-P2 contains
three subtests measuring different aspects of language, the childrens performance on each subtest was compared. The
groups did not differ on the Expressive Vocabulary subtest (F(1,23) = 1.68, p = .21; h2 = .035) or the Sentence
Structure subtest which assesses receptive morphosyntax (F(1,23) = .86, p = .36; h2 = .061). They did differ
significantly on the Word Structure subtest which assesses expressive morphosyntax (F(1,23) = 4.95, p = .04;
h2 = .173). This effect size was medium (Cohen, 1998). The monolingual children significantly outperformed the dual
language learners on this measure, consistent with their performance on the SPELT-P2, which also measures
expressive morphosyntax.
The third set of analyses explored the childrens performance on the narrative tasks on four dimensions: story
length, story structure, language form, and use of literate language features. To reduce the number of analyses and
increase power, measures from the two narrative tasks were combined. One dual language learner did not produce any
narrative related utterances for the ENNI. Thus, the dual language learners included 11 children for these analyses.
Story length was determined by combining the number of utterances in the childrens narratives from the Bus Story
and ENNI. The story structure variable was the average of the Bus Story Information Score and ENNI Story Structure
Score. The language form measures included the average complexity index (i.e., mean number of clauses in a
communication unit), the percentage of utterances that were grammatical, and the percentage of tensed verbs that were
correct. Literate language included five measures, specifically, the average number of (a) simple noun phrases, (b)
complex noun phrases, (c) adverbs, (d) conjunctions, and (e) mental state verbs used per utterance in the two narratives
combined. The group means on the narrative measures can be found in Table 3. Mothers education and the childrens
scores on the SPELT-P2 were entered as covariates for these analyses as significant differences between the groups had
been found on these measures.
ANCOVAs revealed that the groups did not differ in terms of the story length (F(1,21) = 0.37, p = .55) or in story
structure (F(1,21) = 0.78, p = .38). They also did not differ on any of the language form measures: the complexity
index (F(1,21) = 0.36, p = .55), the proportion of grammatical utterances (F(1,21) = 0.04, p = .84), or the accuracy of
tense verb morphology (F(1,21) = 0.04, p = .83). The final set of analyses explored the childrens use of literate
language features in their narratives. No differences were found between the groups on any of these measures (simple
noun phrase F(1,21) = 0.29, p = .87, complex noun phrase F(1,21) = 0.53, p = .48, adverbs F(1,21) = 0.56, p = .46),
all conjunctions (F(1,21) = 0.34, p = .57, conjunctions excluding initial and F(1,21) = 0.26, p = .61, and mental and
linguistic verbs F(1,21) = 0.04, p = .84). The effect sizes for all of these nonsignificant comparisons were small, with
eta square values of less than .028.

Table 3
Childrens narrative measuresa.
Narrative measure Monolingual group (n = 14) Dual language group (n = 11)
# Utterances, Mean (SD) 25.18 (7.3) 24.91 (7.2)
Story Structure,b Mean (SD) 86.43 (9.8) 86.72 (6.0)
Complexity Index,c Mean (SD) 1.61 (0.1) 1.59 (0.8)
Grammaticality,d Mean (SD) 0.48 (0.2) 0.45 (0.1)
Accuracy of Tensed Verbs, Mean (SD) 0.58 (0.3) 0.51 (0.2)
# Simple Noun Phrase/Utterance, Mean (SD) 0.44 (0.2) 0.35 (0.2)
# Complex Noun Phrase/Utterance, Mean (SD) 0.01 (0.02) 0.03 (0.04)
# Adverbs/Utterance, Mean (SD) 0.11 (0.06) 0.05 (0.06)
# All Conjunctions/Utterance, Mean (SD) 0.27 (0.3) 0.29 (0.2)
# Conjunctions excluding initial and/Utterance, Mean (SD) 0.09 (0.12) 0.05 (0.06)
# Mental/Linguistic Verbs/Utterance, Mean (SD) 0.06 (0.07) 0.06 (0.12)
a
Measures calculated using narratives from both tasks.
b
The composite narrative score was calculated by averaging the Bus Story Information Score and Edmonton Narrative Norms Instruments Story
Grammar Score.
c
Complexity Index (i.e., the number of clauses per utterance) calculated for both narratives following conventions from the Edmonton Narrative
Norms Instrument.
d
Proportion of complete and intelligible utterances that was grammatically correct.
518 P.L. Cleave et al. / Journal of Communication Disorders 43 (2010) 511522

4. Discussion

The purpose of the study reported here was to examine the links between dual language learning and the narrative
skills of children with SLI by comparing the performance of monolingual children with SLI and dual language learners
with SLI on standardized tests and narrative measures. The dual language learners were English dominant but were
exposed to an additional language in the home at least 25% of the time and spoke the additional language at least 10%
of the time, based on parental report. Nine different languages were represented in this group, reflecting the diversity of
the caseloads that may be typical for speech-language pathologists working in large urban centres.
Overall, the study revealed that both groups of children were remarkably similar. Demographic data were examined
first. Group differences were found only on measures of maternal and paternal education, with the parents of the
monolingual children having achieved higher education levels. The groups did not differ on family income, childrens
schooling, age of the children, or ages of the parents. Based on the inclusionary criteria, all children in both groups
displayed normal nonverbal cognition and below average language skills on standardized testing. The groups did not
differ in nonverbal cognitive skills; however, the dual language learners scored significantly lower on the CELF-P2, a
broad-based standardized language test. When the various subtests included in the CELF-P2 were examined, the
differences appeared to be driven by the expressive morphosyntax subtest. There were no group differences on subtests
measuring expressive vocabulary and receptive morphosyntax. The group difference on the CELF-P2 was confirmed
by the finding of a group difference on the SPELT-P2, which is also a measure of expressive morphosyntax.
The difference between the monolingual children and dual language learners seen on standardized testing was not
replicated in measures derived from the childrens narratives. The childrens narrative skills were compared on a
number of dimensions and no significant differences were detected between the groups. This was true of both story
structure and language form measures, including measures of grammaticality and accuracy of tensed verbs. The bias of
standardized language tests for the assessment of dual language learners is well recognized (e.g., Bedore & Pena,
2008) and it has been suggested that language sample measures, such as narratives, may be a more appropriate way to
evaluate the language skills of bilingual and bicultural children as they are more naturalistic (Pena et al., 2007; Rojas &
Iglesia, 2009). Telling stories is a familiar script for most children, and so a narrative assessment may be a supportive
context for language assessment. The results from this study support this position. On all narrative measures, the dual
language learners with SLI performed at an equivalent level to the monolingual children with SLI. It was only on
standardized tests of expressive morphosyntax that the dual language learners achieved significantly lower scores. For
this dimension of language, the decontextualized nature of standardized tests may have been particularly challenging
for the dual language learners. Alternatively, it may be the case that the standardized tests stressed the childrens
language systems by requiring them to produce structures they do not spontaneously use. Under this stress, the DDL
group preformed more poorly. The groups did not differ in grammatical accuracy on structures they chose to produce
in narratives but they did differ in standardized tasks. One way to explore whether it was the decontextualized nature of
the task or the type of structures involved in the standardized tests which caused the poorer performance would be to
determine if particular structures that were in error on the standardized tests were correctly produced in spontaneous
speech. This, however, would require very large narrative samples. Our findings suggest that speech-language
pathologists should be particularly cautious in interpreting the results of standardized expressive tests of
morphosyntax when assessing dual language learners as their scores may not be representative of how dual language
learners compare to monolingual speakers in functional language tasks such as narratives. Furthermore, assessing
morphosyntactic skills in both structured and naturalistic tasks would provide a better understanding of a childs skills.
Although the monolingual children and dual language learners did not differ on narrative measures, it was not
the case that both groups were doing well. That is, the groups showed equivalent levels of difficulty. Standard scores
are available for the story structure scores from the two narrative tasks. Both groups scored more than one standard
deviation below the mean on both narratives. Although there were a few children from both groups who achieved
scores within normal limits on the story structure measures for one narrative, only one child did so on both
narratives.
The measures of language form also reflected the childrens language impairments. The majority of the childrens
utterances were ungrammatical in both groups; the monolingual children produced grammatical utterances 48% of the
time while the value for the dual language learners was 45%. For accuracy of tensed verbs, the values were 58% for the
monolingual children and 51% for the dual language learners. The rate of grammatical utterances for both groups of
children in the current study was lower than those reported for dual language learners without language impairments.
P.L. Cleave et al. / Journal of Communication Disorders 43 (2010) 511522 519

Two previous studies of children of similar ages have reported on the grammaticality of dual language learners
utterances in English narratives. Munoz, Gillam, Pena, and Gulley-Faehnle (2003) examined the narratives of 4- and 5-
year-old SpanishEnglish dual language learners from low SES backgrounds. The 4-year-old group produced an
average of 58.7% grammatical utterances while the 5-year-olds produced grammatical utterances 80% of the time.
The typically developing SpanishEnglish dual language learners in Fiestas and Penas (2004) study ranged in age
from 4;0 to 6;11 years. In English narratives, they produced grammatical utterances 80% of the time. Thus, as
expected, the dual language learners with SLI in the current study performed less well than typically developing, dual
language learners of similar ages.
The children in this study also showed difficulties in the use of literate language features. Curenton and Justice
(2004) explored the use of such features in narratives produced by Caucasian and African American children from low
SES backgrounds. The researchers found no differences between the two groups of children in their use of literate
language forms and consequently they pooled the data. The children with SLI in the current study produced simple
noun phrases, conjunctions, adverbs, and mental state or linguistic verbs at approximately half the rate reported for the
4-year-old children in Curenton and Justices study. In both studies, the children rarely produced complex noun
phrases.
Difficulties with narrative structure and morphosyntactic skills are common in English-speaking children with SLI
(Boudreau, 2007; Leonard, 1998; Schwartz, 2009). Both the monolingual children and dual language learners in this
study demonstrated difficulties in these two areas in the narrative tasks. This suggests that the narrative tasks were
sensitive metrics of the childrens language skills. Furthermore, the lack of a difference between the groups in the
narrative language is consistent with other research. Using data from spontaneous language samples, Paradis et al.
(2003) reported that FrenchEnglish dual language learners with SLI showed comparable levels of accuracy of tense
morphemes as monolingual English and French children with SLI. Gutierrez-Clellen et al. (2008) found similar results
analyzing narrative language samples from SpanishEnglish dual language learners and monolingual English-
speaking children with SLI.

4.1. Conclusion

The aim of this study was to compare the standardized testing results and narrative skills of a group of monolingual
and dual language learning preschoolers with SLI. On standardized testing, group differences were found on measures
of expressive morphosyntax but not in other language domains. Although the groups differed on standardized testing
of expressive morphosyntactic skills, differences were not seen in morphosyntactic measures from the narrative
samples, a more naturalistic language task. These results support the position that language sample measures, such as
narratives, may be a less biased way to assess the language skills of dual language learners. Furthermore, the results
suggest that bias in standardized testing may be particularly acute when assessing expressive morphosyntactic skills.
Although the groups did not differ on the narrative measures, both groups demonstrated weak morphosyntactic,
literate language, and story structure skills as expected given their diagnosis. This indicates that narratives may be a
sensitive way for speech-language pathologists to assess both monolingual and dual language learning children with
language impairments.

4.2. Limitations of this study

As an exploratory study, there are a number of limitations that should be recognized. There were no measures
collected in the dual language learners other language and we relied on parental concern and the judgment of the
speech-language pathologist to determine language impairment in the dual language learners other language.
Furthermore, we relied on parental report of a childs language dominance, the percentage time another language is
spoken at home and the percentage of time a child spoke another language. It would have been preferable to have a less
subjective measure of the childrens language skills in their additional language as this would increase our confidence
that the dual language learners truly had a language impairment. However, for many of the languages, objective tests
are not available. A second limitation is that the study involved a relatively small number of children and the dual
language group spoke a variety of additional languages. This made it impossible to look for language-specific effects.
This includes language-specific effects on narrative structure. It is important to recognize that narrative structure does
differ among cultures (Westby, 1994). A third limitation is that this study did not involve any children with typical
520 P.L. Cleave et al. / Journal of Communication Disorders 43 (2010) 511522

language development. Thus, most narrative measures were compared to reports from previous studies. The exception
was the narrative structure measures for which standard scores could be computed. Finally, although narratives were
collected in two tasks, the actual samples were relatively short.

4.3. Future research

The results of this study suggest that narrative analyses may be a useful part of a language assessment battery when
assessing dual language learners. However, further research addressing the limitations of this study is needed to
confirm these findings. On a more general level, additional research involving more objective methods of determining
language impairment and language dominance in the dual language learners and longer narrative samples is needed to
confirm the findings of this study. It is important to understand the English-language skills of dual language learners
because, although it may be desirable for a bilingual speech-language pathologist to offer language assessment and
intervention in both languages spoken by a dual language learner, providing this is not possible for many children in
our multicultural society. For many languages there are no speech-language pathologists or teachers who are fluent
speakers of the language. Also, many speech-language pathologists work with children who speak a variety of
languages so being a bilingual or even trilingual speech-language pathologist would not address the needs of all
children on a caseload. Where feasible, the development of appropriately normed assessment instruments and
empirically tested intervention programs in both languages is ideal. However, this will not always be possible.
Therefore, future research needs to investigate effective ways of assessing a dual language learners skills in both
languages and of providing language intervention, when necessary.

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a research grants from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the
Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network. We are grateful for the support received from the two
participating agencies: Toronto Preschool Speech and Language Services, Toronto, Ontario and the Nova Scotia
Hearing and Speech Clinics, Halifax, Nova Scotia. We thank Teresa Alexander-Arab, Steve Cohen, Nancy Chisholm,
Jennifer Lall-Budhu, Andrea MacDonald, and Barb Wylde their valuable assistance in the planning, recruitment, and
intervention phases of this study. We also acknowledge the assistance of the speech-language pathologists who
conducted the intervention programs: Sacha Delgado, Susan Doucette, Jean Kim, Inge Louw, Sandra McCallum,
Kermin Merchant, Mansi Parekh, Dana Prutschi, Deb Trager, Debbie Vine. We are indebted to Victoria Kendall and
Hannah Jacob for research coordination and a team of research assistants for their invaluable work. Last, but not least,
we thank the parents and children who participated in this study.

Appendix A. Continuing education

CEU Questions

(1) Narrative samples can provide information about a childs


a. story structure skills
b. morphosyntactic skills
c. semantic skills
d. all of the above
(2) The narratives of monolingual and dual language learning children with specific language impairment
a. show weaknesses in morphosyntactic and semantic skills but relative strengths in narrative structure
b. show weaknesses in narrative structure but relative strengths in morphosyntactic and semantic skills
c. show weaknesses in narrative structure, morphosyntactic and semantic skills
d. show weaknesses in narrative structure and morphosyntactic skills but relative strengths in semantic skills
(3) When assessing dual language learners, standardized tests are often biased. The results of this study suggest that
this bias
a. may be particularly acute in expressive semantic skills
b. may be particularly acute in expressive morphosyntactic skills
P.L. Cleave et al. / Journal of Communication Disorders 43 (2010) 511522 521

c. may be particularly acute in receptive semantic skills


d. is equal across language domains
(4) Narrative analyses can be a sensitive way to assess language skills in children who are dual language learners
a. True
b. False
(5) This study found that the narrative skills of monolingual and dual language preschoolers with specific language
impairment
a. were on par with previous studies of narratives in typically developing children
b. differed significantly on morphosyntactic and semantic measures
c. differed significantly on measure of narrative structure
d. were equivalent on measures of narrative structure, morphosyntax, and semantics

References

Acion, L., Peterson, J. J., Temple, S., & Arndt, S. (2006). Probabilistic index: An intuitive non-parametric approach to measuring the size of
treatment effects. Statistics in Medicine, 25, 591602.
Battle, D. (2002). Communication disorders in multicultural populations (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Beitchman, J., Wilson, B., Johnson, C., Atkinson, L., Young, A., Adlaf, E., et al. (2001). Fourteen-year follow-up of speech/language impaired and
control children: Psychiatric outcome. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40, 7582.
Bedore, L. M., & Pena, E. D. (2008). Assessment of bilingual children for identification of language impairment: Current findings and implications
for practice. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 11, 129.
Botting, N., Faragher, B., Simkin, Z., Knox, E., & Conti-Ramsden, G. (2001). Predicting pathways of specific language impairment: What
differentiates good and poor outcome? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 10131020.
Boudreau, D. M. (2007). Narrative abilities in children with language impairments. In R. Paul (Ed.), Language disorders from a developmental
perspective (pp. 331356). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Burgemeister, B., Hollander Blum, L., & Lorge, I. (1972). Columbia Mental Maturity Scale. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Coorporation.
Catts, H., Fey, M., Zhang, X., & Tomblin, J. (2001). Estimating the risk of future reading difficulties in kindergarten children: A research-based
model and its clinical implementation. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in the Schools, 32, 3850.
Cohen, J. (1998). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral science (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Cowley, J., & Glasgow, C. (1994). The Renfrew Bus Story: Language screening by narrative recall. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance.
Curenton, S. M., & Justice, L. M. (2004). African American and Caucasian preschoolers use of decontextualized language: Literate language
features in oral narratives. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in the Schools, 35, 240252.
Dawson, J., Stout, C., Eyer, J., Tattersall, P., Fonkalsrud, J., & Croley, K. (2005). Structured photographic expressive language test-preschool (2nd
ed.). DeKalb, IL: Janelle Publications.
Dickinson, D., & Tabors, P. (2001). Beginning literacy with language. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.
Fiestas, C. E., & Pena, E. D. (2004). Narrative discourse in bilingual children: Language and task effects. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in
Schools, 35, 155168.
Genesee, F., Paradis, J., & Crago, M. B. (2004). Dual language development and disorders: A handbook on bilingualism and second language
learning. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.
Girolametto, L., Wiigs, M., Smyth, R., Weitzman, E., & Pearce, P. (2001). Children with a history of expressive language delay: Outcomes at 5 years
of age. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 10, 358369.
Gutierrez-Clellen, V. F. (1999). Language choice in intervention with bilingual children. American Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 8, 291
302.
Gutierrez-Clellen, V. F. (2002). Narratives in two languages: Assessing performance of bilingual children. Linguistics and Education, 13, 175197.
Gutierrez-Clellen, V. F., Simon-Cereijido, G., & Wagner, C. (2008). Bilingual children with language impairment: A comparison with monolinguals
and second language learners. Applied Psycholinguistics, 29, 319.
Johnson, C., Beitchman, J., Young, A., Escobar, M., Atkinson, L., Wilson, B., et al. (1999). Fourteen-year follow-up of children with and
without speech/language impairments: Speech/language stability and outcomes. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42(3),
744760.
Jordaan, H. (2008). Clinical intervention for bilingual children: An international survey. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 60, 97105.
Kohnert, K. (2008). Language disorders in bilingual children and adults. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing.
Laing, S. P., & Kamhi, A. (2003). Alternative assessment of language and literacy in culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Language,
Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 34, 4455.
Lavine, T. R., & Hullett, C. R. (2002). Eta squared, partial eta squared and misreporting of effect size in communication research. Human
Communication Research, 28, 612625.
Leonard, L. B. (1998). Children with specific language impairment. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Lofranco, L. L., Pena, E. D., & Bedore, L. M. (2006). English language narratives of Filipino children. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in
Schools, 37, 2838.
522 P.L. Cleave et al. / Journal of Communication Disorders 43 (2010) 511522

Manhardt, J., & Rescorla, L. (2002). Oral narrative skills of late talkers at ages 8 and 9. Applied Psycholinguistics, 23, 121.
Miller, J. (1981). Assessing language production in young children. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
Miller, J., & Chapman, R. (2002). Systematic analysis of language transcripts. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Munoz, M. L., Gillam, R. B., Pena, E. D., & Gulley-Faehnle, A. (2003). Measures of language development in fictional narratives of Latino children.
Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 34, 332342 (Previous Record, Next Record).
Oller, D. K., & Eilers, R. E. (Eds.). (2002). Language and literacy in bilingual children. Buffalo, NY: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Paradis, J., Crago, M., Genesee, F., & Rice, M. (2003). FrenchEnglish bilingual children with SLI: How do they compare with their monolingual
peers? Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 46, 113127.
Pearson, B. Z. (2002). Narrative competence among monolingual and bilingual school children in Miami. In D. K. Oller & R. E. Eilers (Eds.),
Language and literacy in bilingual children (pp. 135174). Buffalo, NY: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Pena, E. D., & Bedore, L. M. (2008). Bilingualism in child language disorders. In R. G. Schwartz (Ed.), Handbook of child language disorders (pp.
281307). New York, NY: Psychology Press.
Pena, E. D., Iglesias, A., & Lidz, C. S. (2001). Reducing test bias through dynamic assessment of childrens word learning ability. American Journal
of Speech-Language Pathology, 10, 138154.
Pena, E. D., Summer, C., & Resendiz, M. (2007). Language variation, assessment and intervention. In A. G. Kamhi, J. J. Masterson, & K. Apel
(Eds.), Clinical decision making in developmental language disorders (pp. 99118). Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.
Rojas, R., & Iglesia, A. (2009). Making a case for language sampling: Assessment and intervention with (SpanishEnglish) second-language
learners. The ASHA Leader, 14, 1011 13.
Roseberry-McKibbin, C., & OHanlon, L. (2005). Nonbiased assessment of English language learners: A tutorial. Communication Disorders
Quarterly, 26, 178185.
Sackett, C. (1978). Observing behavior. Baltimore, MD: University Park Press.
Schneider, P., Dube, R. V., & Hayward, D. (2005). The Edmonton Narrative Norms Instrument. Retrieved October 29, 2008, from http://
www.rehabmed.ualberta.ca/spa/enni.
Schwartz, R. G. (2009). Specific language impairment. In R. G. Schwartz (Ed.), Handbook of child language disorders (pp. 343). New York, NY:
Psychology Press.
Tomblin, J. B., Records, N. L., Buckwalter, P., Zhang, X., Smith, E., & OBrien, M. (1997). Prevalence of specific language impairment in
kindergarten children. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 40, 12451260.
Uccelli, P., & Paez, M. M. (2007). Narrative and vocabulary development of bilingual children from kindergarten to first grade: Developmental
changes and associations among English and Spanish skills. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 38, 225236.
Westby, C. (1994). The effects of culture on genre, structure, and style in oral and written texts. In G. Wallach & K. Butler (Eds.), Language learning
disabilities in school-age children and adolescents (pp. 180186). New York: Macmillan Publishing.
Wiig, E., Secord, W., & Semel, E. (2004). Clinical evaluation of language fundamentals preschool 2 (2nd ed.). San Antonio, TX: Psychological
Corporation.