The following is a transcript of the presentation video, edited for clarity. Presentation slides are available for download via the PDF button in the toolbar.
Originally presented at the ASHA Convention (November 2013) as part of the session Development of a Bilingual Test for Spanish-English Children: A Long and Winding Road. Videos in this series are:
(Elizabeth D. Peña, University of Texas at Austin)
(Elizabeth D. Peña, University of Texas at Austin)
(Brian A. Goldstein, La Salle University)
(Aquiles Iglesias, Temple University)
(Lisa M. Bedore, University of Texas at Austin)
(Vera F. Gutierrez-Clellen)
We started with spontaneous language samples, and with the literature, with the reviews of the literature in Spanish that were available that were pretty much based on monolingual children, looking at their Spanish-language development. And with the knowledge that we had then about cross-linguistic differences in the manifestations of the language impairment when we were looking at grammar.
With all this initial work that we did, we started with the assumption that children who are learning Spanish and English — who are dual-language learners, with different levels of development in each language — that if they have a language impairment, they would show grammatical difficulties in both languages. But, it would be represented in a different way.
We are going to go over some characteristics in terms of morphosyntax of the grammatical problems that these children have in each language.
Based on the literature and the initial work that we did, we focused on developing a morphosyntax measure for Spanish that would focus on articles, clitic pronouns, complex verbs such as subjunctives, and complex syntax such as the use of a sentence repetition task that is included in the morphosyntax test.
The Spanish measure is based on linguistically appropriate targets. We are not translating. We are not looking at what you would look at in English in Spanish, even if you have the same morphemes. This will become clear when we look at English.
In English we didn’t focus on articles, for example. We focused on morphology, and we also looked at possessive nouns, plurals, and passives.
Basically, we developed two tests for the price of one, looking at very different grammatical features in each language.
As was discussed before, our intent was to develop a measure that would have sufficient sensitivity and specificity across different groups of speakers with different dialects of each language, and with different levels of proficiency in each language.
One of the things we had to do was to look at what grammatical differences we should expect in speakers of different Spanish dialects. Based on the review of the literature we decided to provide alternative scoring for specific morphemes that could be vulnerable for speakers of specific dialects. We looked at features of Puerto Rican Spanish and other Caribbean Spanish dialects, as well as Mexican-American Spanish. Then we tried also to look at what we could do if a child learning English as a second language, or being raised in an English-speaking community, speaks a non-standard variety of English, such as some features of African-American English or Korean English that may be different from other groups of English speakers who are bilingual.
One important issue is that you may find grammatical differences in children that may be related to their limited use of their home language. You may find that children will experience loss or attrition of their home language when the home or the school context doesn’t promote maintenance of the home language.
It’s almost like a moving target. We are trying to find the right level of exposure and use to be able to say, “This child is not experiencing attrition, there may be something else going on.” On the other hand, children who are only tested in the second language, who are learning English as a second language, may show errors that are not related to language impairment, but that are related to limited English-language development and proficiency.
I want to give you an example of how we looked at it. We used a closed task to assess Spanish articles: “Los niños tienen unos carros. ¿Y aquí qué tienen los niños? Tienen… ” And we were targeting the article in front of the noun. Here the children have some cars. (It doesn’t work very well in English). And here, what do these children have? They have… A car.
So we are looking at articles in Spanish because children who have language impairment have a hard time producing them with correct gender agreement and number agreement. And many children omit them altogether.
We also focused on the use of clitics. Here, “Juan is going to paint the table. And here, what is Juan doing with the table? Juan …” And the target is painting “it” so we are looking for the direct object in this case. “La pinta” which has to agree in gender with the gender of the noun and also with number and case.
Clitic pronouns are complex morphemes in Spanish. That’s why children with SLI — specific language impairment — have a hard time producing them correctly. Either they omit them or they don’t use correct agreement.
Then, using this closed task, we looked at the subjunctive. Here, “La mamá quiere que pongan la mesa.” The mom wants them to set the table. And here, what does she want? Mom wants them to — coman/tomen here you have the subjunctive verb that is targeted, that is obligatory in this sentence completion task.
In the scoring we focused on not penalizing dialectal differences related to the use of “leísmo” le/lo for him which is common in some varieties of Mexican Spanish.
Or plural omissions in articles and clitic pronouns, which may be found in Spanish Caribbean dialects.
Spanish Test Analysis
English Test Analysis
Further Item Analysis and Selection
Maximizing Classification Accuracy
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