The Receptive-Expressive Gap In Bilingual Children With And Without Primary Language Impairment
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Purpose: In this study, the authors examined the magnitude of the discrepancy between standardized measures of receptive and expressive semantic knowledge, known as a receptive-expressive gap, for bilingual children with and without primary language impairment (PLI). Method: Spanish and English measures of semantic knowledge were administered to 37 Spanish-English bilingual 7- to 10-year old children with PLI and to 37 Spanish-English bilingual peers with typical development (TD). Parents and teachers completed questionnaires that yielded day-by-day and hour-by-hour information regarding children's exposure to and use of Spanish and English. Results: Children with PLI had significantly larger discrepancies between receptive and expressive semantics standard scores than their bilingual peers with TD. The receptive-expressive gap for children with PLI was predicted by current English experience, whereas the best predictor for children with TD was cumulative English experience. Conclusions: As a preliminary explanation, underspecified phonological representations due to bilingual children's divided language input as well as differences in their languages' phonological systems may result in a discrepancy between standardized measures of receptive and expressive semantic knowledge. This discrepancy is greater for bilingual children with PLI because of the additional difficulty these children have in processing phonetic information. Future research is required to understand these underlying processes.