Article/Report  |   August 2000
Tense and Temporality
Author Notes
Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Language
Article/Report   |   August 2000
Tense and Temporality
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research August 2000, Vol.43, 834-847. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4304.834
History: Accepted 09 Feb 2000 , Received 03 May 1999
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research August 2000, Vol.43, 834-847. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4304.834
History: Accepted 09 Feb 2000 , Received 03 May 1999

This study compares the morphosyntax of children with SLI to the morphosyntax of children acquiring a second language (L2) to determine whether the optional infinitive phenomenon (M. Rice, K. Wexler, & P. Cleave, 1995; K. Wexler, 1994) is evident in both learner groups and to what extent cross-learner similarities exist. We analyzed spontaneous production data from French-speaking children with SLI, English-speaking L2 learners of French, and French-speaking controls, all approximately 7 years old. We examined the children's use of tense morphology, temporal adverbials, agreement morphology, and distributional contingencies associated with finiteness. Our findings indicate that the use of morphosyntax by children with SLI and by L2 children has significant similarities, although certain specific differences exist. Both the children with SLI and the L2 children demonstrate optional infinitive effects in their language use. These results have theoretical and clinical relevance. First, they suggest that the characterization of the optional infinitive phenomenon in normal development as a consequence of very early neurological change may be too restrictive. Our data appear to indicate that the mechanism underlying the optional infinitive phenomenon extends to normal (second) language learning after the primary acquisition years. Second, they indicate that tense-marking difficulty may not be an adequate clinical marker of SLI when comparing children with impairment to both monolingual and bilingual peers. A more specific clinical marker would be more effective in diagnosing disordered populations in a multilingual context.

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