Grammatical Morphology in School-Age Spanish Speakers with Bilingual Language Impairment
Peggy Jacobson, St. John’s College of Liberals Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Abstract: Outcome data for children with bilingual language impairment (BLI) are scarce. Errors on object clitic pronouns (lo, la, los, las) have been documented for younger Spanish speakers with BLI, yet the stability of this pattern is unclear. The extent of attrition, or loss, is predicted to be hastened for children exposed to English early on (Bylund, 2009; Anderson, 2004), and those with language impairment (Pena & Bedore, 2009). Although maintenance of Spanish among heritage speakers has been reported for typically developing (TD) children (Montrul & Potowski, 2007), less is known regarding maintenance in situations of language impairment. This longitudinal study included 46 early sequential bilinguals, 20 with BLI and 26 with TD. Thirty-eight children were retested approximately one year later to measure changes for each group. Given the nested nature of the data set, multilevel modeling was employed to test differences over time in subject’s accuracy. As the outcome variables were dichotomous, multilevel logistic regression was used throughout the analyses. Results revealed significant differences in errors as a result of language impairment status and age. Over time, the rate of errors diminished for children with BLI, while it did not significantly change for those with TD. Similar to what has been documented for monolingual SLI, children with BLI eventually converged with their TD peers on the use of Spanish grammatical morphology. These results also suggest that maintenance of Spanish is possible even when impairment exists.