Semantic Deficits in Spanish–English Bilingual Children With Language Impairment PurposeTo examine the nature and extent of semantic deficits in bilingual children with language impairment (LI).MethodThirty-seven Spanish–English bilingual children with LI (ranging from age 7;0 [years;months] to 9;10) and 37 typically developing (TD) age-matched peers generated 3 associations to 12 pairs of translation equivalents in English and Spanish. Responses were ... Article
Article  |   February 01, 2012
Semantic Deficits in Spanish–English Bilingual Children With Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Li Sheng
    University of Texas at Austin
  • Elizabeth D. Peña
    University of Texas at Austin
  • Lisa M. Bedore
    University of Texas at Austin
  • Christine E. Fiestas
    University of Texas at Austin
  • Correspondence to Li Sheng: li.sheng@mail.utexas.edu
  • Editor: Anne Smith
    Editor: Anne Smith×
  • Associate Editor: Kathryn Kohnert
    Associate Editor: Kathryn Kohnert×
Article Information
Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Language
Article   |   February 01, 2012
Semantic Deficits in Spanish–English Bilingual Children With Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2012, Vol. 55, 1-15. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2011/10-0254)
History: Received September 7, 2010 , Revised February 11, 2011 , Accepted May 10, 2011
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2012, Vol. 55, 1-15. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2011/10-0254)
History: Received September 7, 2010; Revised February 11, 2011; Accepted May 10, 2011
Web of Science® Times Cited: 20

PurposeTo examine the nature and extent of semantic deficits in bilingual children with language impairment (LI).

MethodThirty-seven Spanish–English bilingual children with LI (ranging from age 7;0 [years;months] to 9;10) and 37 typically developing (TD) age-matched peers generated 3 associations to 12 pairs of translation equivalents in English and Spanish. Responses were coded as paradigmatic (e.g., dinnerlunch,cena–desayuno [dinnerbreakfast]), syntagmatic (e.g., deliciouspizza,deliciosofrijoles [deliciousbeans]), and errors (e.g., wearingwhere,vestirsemal [to get dressed–bad]). A semantic depth score was derived in each language and conceptually by combining children’s performance in both languages.

ResultsThe LI group achieved significantly lower semantic depth scores than the TD group after controlling for group differences in vocabulary size. Children showed higher conceptual scores than single-language scores. Both groups showed decreases in semantic depth scores across multiple elicitations. Analyses of individual performances indicated that semantic deficits (1 SD below the TD mean semantic depth score) were manifested in 65% of the children with LI and in 14% of the TD children.

ConclusionSchool-age bilingual children with and without LI demonstrated spreading activation of semantic networks. Consistent with the literature on monolingual children with LI, sparsely linked semantic networks characterize a considerable proportion of bilingual children with LI.

Acknowledgments
This research was funded by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant R21HD53223. We are grateful to the families that participated in the study. We thank all of the interviewers and testers for their assistance with collecting the data for this project and the school districts for allowing us access to collect the data.
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