Skip to main content Accessibility help

Macrostructure, microstructure, and mental state terms in the narratives of English–Hebrew bilingual preschool children with and without specific language impairment



Children's bilingual status is important because the interest here is in narrative performance in both languages of bilingual children, in particular the within-subject, cross language comparisons. As Paradis (2010) has argued, there are some structures where performance differences will point to a temporary lack of opportunity for mastery, whereas other structures will be markers of underlying difficulties. We expect the discriminators to be language specific, depending on attested vulnerabilities for each of the languages involved. Narratives were examined for macrostructure (goals, attempts, and outcomes), microstructure (e.g., length, lexis, and morphosyntax), and mental state terms (MSTs). Thirty-one preschool children (TLD = 19, SLI = 12) retold stories accompanied by six pictures that were matched across content (Baby Birds/Baby Goats) and to the extent possible across languages (first language/second language) for macrostructure, microstructure, and MSTs in the framework of the Working Group on Narrative and Discourse Abilities in COST Action 0804 Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society: Linguistic Patterns and the Road to Assessment. The macrostructure results confirmed previous findings showing similar performance in both languages for children with TLD and those diagnosed with SLI. Consistent with previous findings on narrative abilities among bilingual children, microstructure analysis of verbal productivity, length of communication units, and lexical diversity distinguished children with TLD from those with SLI. An analysis of MSTs yielded more MSTs in children's second language, in particular more mental verbs. The most prevalent MSTs used in all narratives were early acquired perceptual and motivational verbs (“see” and “want”). Overall, distinctions between narratives of children with TLD and SLI were found primarily for microstructure features, where error analysis was particularly important in uncovering possible markers, especially in second languages.


Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Carmit Altman, School of Education, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel. E-mail:


Hide All
Altman, C., Burstein-Feldman, Z., Yitzhaki, D., Armon-Lotem, S., & Walters, J. (2014). Family language policies, reported language use and proficiency in Russian–Hebrew bilingual children in Israel. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 35, 216234.
Armon-Lotem, S. (2010). Instructive bilingualism: Can bilingual children with SLI rely on one language in learning a second one? Applied Psycholinguistics, 31, 2936.
Armon-Lotem, S. (2014). Between L2 and SLI: Inflections and prepositions in the Hebrew of bilingual children with TLD and monolingual children with SLI. Journal of Child Language, 41, 131.
Armon-Lotem, S., Altman, C., Joffe, S., Oz-Abutbul, H., & Walters, J. (2015). Ethno-linguistic identity, language exposure and language acquisition in bilingual preschool children from English and Russian-speaking backgrounds. In Grüter, T. & Paradis, J. (Eds.) Input and experience in bilingual development (pp. 7798). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Armon-Lotem, S., & Amiram, O. (2012). The assignment of gender in L2 Hebrew: The role of the L1 gender system. Brill's Annual of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics, 4, 232251.
Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A. M., & Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”? Cognition, 21, 3746.
Berman, R. A., & Neeman, Y. (1994). Development of linguistic forms: Hebrew. In Berman, R. A. & Slobin, D. I. (Eds.), Relating events in narrative: A crosslinguistic developmental study (pp. 285328). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Biddle, K. R., McCabe, A., & Bliss, L. S. (1996). Narrative skills following traumatic brain injury in children and adults. Journal of Communication Disorders, 29, 447469.
Blom, E., & Paradis, J. (2014). Sources of individual differences in the acquisition of tense inflection by English second language learners with and without specific language impairment. Applied Psycholinguistics. Advance online publication. doi:10.1017/S014271641300057X
Borer, H. (1974). Parametric syntax: Case studies in Semitic and Romance languages. Dordrecht: Foris.
Botting, N. (2002). Narrative as a tool for the assessment of linguistic and pragmatic impairments. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 18, 122.
Bowerman, M. (1976). Semantic factors in the acquisition of rules for word use and sentence construction. In Morehead, D. & Morehead, A. (Eds.), Directions in normal and deficient language development (pp. 99179). Baltimore, MD: University Park Press.
Burns, F. A., de Villiers, P. A., Pearson, B. Z., & Champion, T. B. (2012). Dialect neutral indices of narrative cohesion and evaluation. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 43, 132152.
Clark, E. V. (1978). Strategies for communicating. Child Development, 49, 953959.
Clark, E. V. (1990). On the pragmatics of contrast. Journal of Child Language, 17, 417431.
Clark, E. V. (2009). What shapes children's language? Child-directed speech, conventionality, and the process of acquisition. In Mueller Gathercole, V. C. (Ed.), Routes to language: Studies in honour of Melissa Bowerman (pp. 233254). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Cleave, P. L., Girolametto, L. E., Chen, X., & Johnson, C. J. (2010). Narrative abilities in monolingual and dual language learning children with specific language impairment. Journal of Communication Disorders, 43, 511522.
Curenton, S. M., & Justice, L. M. (2004). African American and Caucasian preschoolers’ use of decontextualized language: Literate language features in oral narratives. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 35, 240253.
Faulkner, D., & Coates, E. (2011). Exploring children's creative narratives: Some theoretical, methodological and applied perspectives. In Faulkner, D. & Coates, E. (Eds.), Exploring children's creative narratives (pp. 110). Abingdon: Routledge.
Fiestas, C. E., & Peña, E. D. (2004). Narrative discourse in bilingual children: Language and task effects. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 35, 155168.
Füste-Hermann, B., Silliman, E. R., Bahr, R. H., Fasnacht, K. S., & Federico, J. E. (2006). Mental state verb production in the oral narratives of English- and Spanish-speaking preadolescents: An exploratory study of lexical diversity and depth. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 21, 4460.
Gagarina, N., Klop, D., Kunnari, S., Tantele, K., Välimaa, T., Balčiūnienė, I., et al. (2012). MAIN: Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives. ZAS papers in linguistics 56. Berlin: Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft.
Gagarina, N., Klop, D., Kunnari, S., Tantele, K., Välimaa, T., Balčiūnienė, I., et al. (in press). Assessment of narrative abilities in bilingual children. In Armon-Lotem, S., de Jong, J., & Meir, N. (Eds.), Methods for assessing multilingual children: Disentangling bilingualism from language impairment. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Gillam, R. B., & Johnston, J. R. (1992). Spoken and written language relationships in language/learning-impaired and normally achieving school-age children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 35, 13031315.
Goralnik, E. (1995). Goralnik Diagnostic Test [in Hebrew]. Even Yehuda, Israel: Matan.
Greenhalgh, K. S., & Strong, C. J. (2001). Literate language features in spoken narratives of children with typical language and children with language impairments. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 32, 114125.
Gutiérrez-Clellen, V. F., Simon-Cereijido, G., & Leone, A. E. (2009). Code-switching in bilingual children with specific language impairment. International Journal of Bilingualism, 13, 91109.
Gutierrez-Clellen, V. F., Simon-Cereijido, G., & Wagner, C. (2008). Bilingual children with language impairment: A comparison with monolinguals and second language learners. Applied Psycholinguistics, 29, 319.
Hunt, K. W. (1965). Grammatical structures written at three grade levels. Champaign, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Huttenlocher, J., Smiley, P., & Charney, R. (1983). The emergence of action categories in the child: Evidence from verb meaning. Psychological Review, 90, 7293.
Iluz-Cohen, P., & Armon-Lotem, S. (2013). Language proficiency and executive control in bilingual children. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 16, 884899.
Iluz-Cohen, P., & Walters, J. (2012). Telling stories in two languages: Narratives of bilingual preschool children with typical and impaired language. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 15, 5874.
Kaderavek, J. N., & Sulzby, E. (2000). Narrative production by children with and without specific language impairment: Oral narratives and emergent readings. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 43, 3449.
Labov, W. (1972). Language in the inner city: Studies of Black English vernacular. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Labov, W. (1997). Some further steps in narrative analysis. Journal of Narrative and Life History, 7, 395415.
Labov, W. (2013). The language of life and death: The transformation of experience in oral narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Liles, B., Duffy, R., Merritt, D., & Purcell, S. (1995). Measurement of narrative discourse ability in children with language disorders. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 38, 415425.
Lucas, J. A. (1980). Developing reading skills through the short story. Teaching and Learning, 1, 2028.
MacWhinney, B. (2000). The CHILDES Project: Tools for analyzing talk. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Mandler, G. (1979). Organization and repetition: Organizational principles with special reference to rote learning. In Nilsson, L. G. (Ed.), Perspectives in memory research. Hillsdale. NJ: Erlbaum.
Marshall, C. R., & van der Lely, H. K. J. (2012). Irregular past tense forms in English: How data from children with specific language impairment contribute to models of morphology. Morphology, 22, 121141.
Mayer, M. (1969). Frog, where are you? New York: Dial Press.
Merritt, D. D., & Liles, B. Z. (1987). Story grammar ability in children with and without language disorder: Story generation, story retelling, and story comprehension. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 30, 539552.
Newman, R. M., & McGregor, K. K. (2006). Teachers and laypersons discern quality differences between narratives produced by children with or without SLI. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49, 10221036.
Norbury, C. F., & Bishop, D. V. M. (2003). Narrative skills of children with communication impairments. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 38, 287313.
Olley, L. (1989). Oral narrative performance of normal and language impaired school aged children. Australian Journal of Human Communication Disorders, 17, 4365.
Paradis, J. (2005). Grammatical morphology in children learning English as a second language: Implications of similarities with specific language impairment. Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 36, 172187.
Paradis, J. (2010). The interface between bilingual development and specific language impairment. Keynote article for special issue with peer commentaries. Applied Psycholinguistics, 31, 328.
Paradis, J. (2011). Individual differences in child English second language acquisition: Comparing child-internal and child-external factors. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 1, 213237.
Pearson, B. Z. (2001). Language and mind in the stories of bilingual children. In Verhoeven, L. & Lundquist, S. (Eds.), Narrative development in a multilingual context (pp. 373398). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Pearson, B. Z. (2002). Narrative competence among monolingual and bilingual school children in Miami. In Oller, D. K. & Eilers, R. E. (Eds.), Language and literacy in bilingual children (pp. 135174). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Pearson, B. Z., & de Villiers, P. A. (Eds.). (2005). Encyclopedia of language and linguistics (2nd ed.). Oxford: Elsevier.
Premack, D., & Woodruff, G. (1978). Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1, 515526.
Ravid, D., Levie, R., & Ben-Zvi, G. A. (2003). The role of language typology in linguistic development: Implications for the study of language disorders. In Levy, Y., & Schaeffer, J. (Eds.), Language competence across populations: Towards a definition of specific language impairment. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Reilly, J., Losh, M., Bellugi, U., & Wulfeck, B. (2004). “Frog, where are you?” Narratives in children with specific language impairment, early focal brain injury, and Williams syndrome. Brain and Language, 88, 229247.
Rice, M., & Bode, J. (1993). GAPS in the verb lexicons of children with specific language impairment. First Language, 13, 113131.
Roth, F. P., & Spekman, N. J. (1986). Narrative discourse: Spontaneously generated stories of learning-disabled and normally achieving students. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 51, 823.
Schneider, P., Hayward, D., & Dubé, R. V. (2006). Storytelling from pictures using the Edmonton Narrative Norms Instrument. Journal of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology, 30, 224238.
Simon-Cereijido, G., & Gutiérrez-Clellen, V. F. (2009). A cross-linguistic and bilingual evaluation of the interdependence between lexical and grammatical domains. Applied Psycholinguistics, 30, 315337.
Soodla, P., & Kikas, E. (2010). Macrostructure in the narratives of Estonian children with typical development and language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53, 13211333.
Stein, N. L., & Glenn, C. G. (1979). An analysis of story comprehension in elementary school children. In Freedle, R. (Ed.), New directions in discourse processing. Hillsdale, NJ: Albex.
Strong, C. J., & Shaver, J. P. (1991). Stability of cohesion in the spoken narratives of language-impaired and normally developing school-aged children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 34, 95111.
To, C. K. S., Stokes, S. F., Cheung, H. T., & T'sou, B. (2010). Narrative assessment for Cantonese-speaking children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53, 648669.
Tomasello, M. (1992). First verbs: A case study of early grammatical development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Trabasso, T., & Nickels, M. (1992). The development of goal plans of action in the narration of a picture story. Discourse Processes, 15, 249275.
Trabasso, T., & Stein, N. L. (1994). Using goal-plan knowledge to merge the past with the present and the future in narrating events on line. In Haith, M., Benson, J., Roberts, R., & Pennington, B. (Eds.), The development of future-oriented processes (pp. 323352). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Trabasso, T., Stein, N. L., Rodkin, P. C., Park Munger, M., & Baughn, C. R. (1992). Knowledge of goals and plans in the on-line narration of events. Cognitive Development, 7, 133170.
Uccelli, P., & Páez, M. M. (2007). Narrative and vocabulary development of bilingual children from kindergarten to first grade: Developmental changes and associations among English and Spanish skills. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 38, 225236.
Unsworth, S. (2013). Assessing the role of current and cumulative exposure in simultaneous bilingual acquisition: The case of Dutch gender. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 16, 86110.
Walters, J. (2005). Bilingualism: The sociopragmatic-psycholinguistic interface. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Westby, C. E. (2005). Assessing and remediating text comprehension problems. In Catts, H. W. & Kamhi, A. G. (Eds.), Language and reading disabilities (2nd ed., pp. 157232). Boston: Pearson Education.
Wiig, E. H., Secord, W. A., & Semel, E. M. (2004). Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals—Preschool 2. San Antonio, TX: Harcourt/Psych Corporation.
Zdorenko, T., & Paradis, J. (2008). The acquisition of articles in child second language English: Fluctuation, transfer or both? Second Language Research, 24, 227250.

Macrostructure, microstructure, and mental state terms in the narratives of English–Hebrew bilingual preschool children with and without specific language impairment



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed