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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Alice FLECKSTEIN

Co-Auteur(s): Philippe PRÉVOST, Laurie TULLER & Rasha ZEBIB

Diagnosis of Specific Language Impairment among French bilingual children via a sentence repetition task: Disentangling the effects of computational complexity and other L2 developmental factors

Abstract/Résumé: Several studies have reported similar language developmental paths in bilingual children and monolinguals with SLI, making it hard to determine whether language problems in bilingual children are due to SLI or to typical L2 acquisition (Grüter 2005, Hamann & Belletti 2006). Previous research has shown the crucial role played by computational complexity in (a)typical language development (e.g., Friedmann et al. 2009, Jakubowicz 2011). At the same time, various developmental factors play an important role in L2 acquisition, such as age of initial exposure and L1 properties (e.g., Schwartz 2004, Meisel 2009). Thus, in order to diagnose SLI among bilingual children we need to disentangle the effects of these different factors. We tested performance on structures of various computational complexity levels in French in children aged 5;7 to 6;7: monolinguals with typical development (TD), monolinguals with SLI, and bilinguals with Arabic or English as their L1, some with suspicion of SLI and some without. We used a sentence repetition task since such tasks have been shown to be a reliable diagnostic marker of SLI (e.g., Conti-Ramsden et al. 2001). The task contained 56 sentences, such as main clauses, sentences with accusative clitics, passives, wh-questions, and biclausal sentences (with clausal embedding or relative clauses). In our preliminary results with 11 bilingual Arabic/French children (6 TD and 5 SLI) identical repetition well distinguished children with SLI from those with TD. Furthermore, children with SLI had significantly lower performance on exact repetition of constructions involving higher computational complexity than TD children, thus demonstrating the usefulness of sentence repetition tasks in identifying SLI in bilingual children and the confirmation of the complexity effects on language acquisition by bilingual children with SLI. Further results will include error analysis and correlation analyses between performance on the repetition task and age of initial exposure and length of exposure.