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The Receptive–Expressive Gap in English Narratives of Spanish–English Bilingual Children With and Without Language Impairment



First, we sought to extend our knowledge of second language (L2) receptive compared to expressive narrative skills in bilingual children with and without primary language impairment (PLI). Second, we sought to explore whether narrative receptive and expressive performance in bilingual children's L2 differed based on the type of contextual support.


In a longitudinal group study, 20 Spanish-English bilingual children with PLI were matched by sex, age, nonverbal IQ score, and language exposure to 20 bilingual peers with typical development and administered the Test of Narrative Language (Gillam & Pearson, 2004) in English (their L2) at kindergarten and first grade.


Standard scores were significantly lower for bilingual children with PLI than those without PLI. An L2 receptive-expressive gap existed for bilingual children with PLI at kindergarten but dissipated by first grade. Using single pictures during narrative generation compared to multiple pictures during narrative generation or no pictures during narrative retell appeared to minimize the presence of a receptive-expressive gap.


In early stages of L2 learning, bilingual children with PLI have an L2 receptive-expressive gap, but their typical development peers do not. Using a single picture during narrative generation might be advantageous for this population because it minimizes a receptive-expressive gap.

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