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Connective processing by bilingual children and monolinguals with specific language impairment: distinct profiles*

  • WILLEM M. MAK (a1), ELENA TRIBUSHININA (a1), JULIA LOMAKO (a2), NATALIA GAGARINA (a2), EKATERINA ABROSOVA (a3) and TED SANDERS (a1)...

Abstract

Production studies show that both Russian-speaking children with specific language impairment (SLI) and bilingual children for whom Russian is a non-dominant language have difficulty distinguishing between the near-synonymous connectives i ‘and’ and a ‘and/but’. I is a preferred connective when reference is maintained, whereas a is normally used for reference shift. We report an eye-tracking experiment comparing connective processing by Russian-speaking monolinguals with typical language development (TLD) with that of Russian–Dutch bilinguals and Russian-speaking monolinguals with SLI (age 5–6). The results demonstrate that the processing profiles of monolinguals with TLD and bilinguals are similar: both groups use connective semantics immediately for predicting further discourse. In contrast, children with SLI do not show sensitivity to these semantic differences. Despite similar production profiles, bilinguals and monolinguals with SLI are clearly different in connective processing. We discuss the implications of these results for the possible causes of the errors in the two populations.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Dr W. M. Mak, Utrecht Institute of Linguistics, Trans 10, 3512 JK Utrecht, The Netherlands. tel: +31302539152; e-mail: w.m.mak@uu.nl

Footnotes

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[*]

We thank the action editor and the anonymous reviewers for their useful comments. We are also grateful to all children, parents, and teachers who have made this investigation possible. This research was supported by a Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme Fellowship within the 7th European Community Framework Programme (grant number 269173).

Footnotes

References

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