English past tense use in typically developing and language impaired Spanish-English bilingual children
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Past tense marking has been proposed as a clinical marker for language impairment in monolingual children. In this study, past tense productions were examined in 14 early sequential Spanish-English bilingual children's language samples to determine their accuracy rates on regular and irregular past tense verbs. Children with language impairments (LI) were less accurate on their past tense productions than their typically developing (TD) peers. The predominant error pattern was bare stem errors in irregular past tense verbs (e.g., production of eat for ate) with past tense. Both groups of children produced a small number of productive, overgeneralization errors (e.g., eated). Participants' errors on language samples in the current study differed from those of structured elicitation tasks on previous studies. Although the current study corroborated the results from structured elicitation tasks in that LI children produced more bare stem errors than TD children, it contrasted with structured tasks in that TD second language learning? children made no more overgeneralization errors than bare stem errors. These findings may contribute to the identification of clinical markers for bilingual language impairment. There is a continued need for research in the areas of rate and order of acquisition of English verb morphology for bilinguals and in the area of clinical markers for language impairment in this population.