Lexical profiles of bilingual children with primary language impairment

Kerry Danahy Ebert, Giang Pham, Kathryn Kohnert

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22 Scopus citations


This study used lexical tasks to examine associations between languages, tasks, and age in bilingual children with primary language impairment. Participants (n = 41, mean age 8;8 years) lived in the United States, spoke primarily Spanish (L1) at home and English (L2) at school, and were identified with moderate to severe impairments in both languages. A total of eight tasks (four in each language) measured breadth of vocabulary knowledge (receptive and expressive vocabulary) and aspects of lexical processing (rapid automatic naming and nonword repetition). Correlational analyses revealed older children outperformed younger children on lexical tasks in L2 but not L1, as well as relative L2 dominance for most individuals and tasks. Positive associations were found between languages on processing-based tasks but not vocabulary measures. Findings were consistent with literature on typical bilingual learners, albeit with a notable increased risk of plateau in L1 growth. Results are interpreted within a Dynamic Systems framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)766-783
Number of pages18
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD R21DC010868) awarded to Kathryn Kohnert and by an NIDCD R21 Postdoctoral Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research to Giang Pham. Portions of this study were presented at the 2012 Symposium on Research in Child Language Disorders, Madison, WI, USA. We are very grateful for the collaboration of Dr. Frank Cirrin and the faculty, staff, and administrators in the Minneapolis Public Schools. We thank our two project coordinators, Jill Rentmeester Disher and Bita Payesteh; the many research assistants who contributed to the project; and the participants and their families. Finally, we are grateful for helpful comments on this manuscript from four anonymous BLC reviewers.


  • Dynamic Systems
  • nonword repetition
  • processing
  • specific language impairment
  • vocabulary


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