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Purpose: Narrative skills between Mandarin and English in Mandarin–English (ME) bilingual children were compared, exploring cross-linguistic interactions of these skills, and influences of age and current language experience (input and output) on narrative performance. Method: Macrostructure and microstructure in elicited narratives from 21 ME bilingual children were analysed. Language experience was collected by parent report and entered as a covariate. Repeated measures analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was conducted to compare the two languages. Result: Children demonstrated better narrative performance in English than Mandarin, with a larger cross-linguistic difference in microstructure than macrostructure. Significant cross-linguistic correlations were only found in children with high Mandarin vocabulary. Age, associated with length of English exposure, only significantly correlated with narrative performance in English. Output had stronger correlations with narrative skills than input. Conclusion: Macrostructure may be less variable across languages than microstructure. Children may need to reach a threshold of vocabulary for cross-linguistic interactions of narrative skills to occur. The effect of age in English may be related to increased cumulative English experience. Children may experience a plateau in Mandarin due to insufficient Mandarin exposure. Stronger correlations between output and narrative skills may be attributed to the expressive nature of both.
Research Article
A Narrative Evaluation of Mandarin-Speaking
Children With Language Impairment
Ying Hao,
Li Sheng,
Yiwen Zhang,
Fan Jiang,
Jill de Villiers,
Wendy Lee,
and Xueman Lucy Liu
Purpose: We aimed to study narrative skills in Mandarin-
speaking children with language impairment (LI) to compare
with children with LI speaking Indo-European languages.
Method: Eighteen Mandarin-speaking children with LI
(mean age 6;2 [years;months]) and 18 typically developing
(TD) age controls told 3 stories elicited using the Mandarin
Expressive Narrative Test (de Villiers & Liu, 2014). We
compared macrostructure-evaluating descriptions of
characters, settings, initiating events, internal responses,
plans, actions, and consequences. We also studied general
microstructure, including productivity, lexical diversity,
syntactic complexity, and grammaticality. In addition, we
compared the use of 6 fine-grained microstructure elements
that evaluate particular Mandarin linguistic features.
Results: Children with LI exhibited weaknesses in
5 macrostructure elements, lexical diversity, syntactic
complexity, and 3 Mandarin-specific, fine-grained
microstructure elements. Children with LI and TD
controls demonstrated comparable performance on
2 macrostructure elements, productivity, g ramm atic ality,
and the remaining 3 fine-grained microstructure
Conclusions: Similarities and differences are noted in
narrative profiles of children with LI who speak Mandarin
versus those who speak Indo-European languages.
The results are consistent with the view that profiles
of linguistic deficits are shaped by the ambient language.
Clinical implications are discussed.
Considerable research regarding language impair-
ment (LI) has been conducted with children
speaking Indo-European languages, for example,
English (e.g., Fey, Catts, Proctor-Williams, Tomblin, &
Zhang, 2004), Swedish (e.g., Reuterskiöld, Hansson, &
Sahlén, 2011), and Greek (e.g., Tsimpli, Peristeri, & Andreou,
2016). Compared to Indo-European languages, Chinese is
a typologically distinct language. Grammatical features in
Chinese are typically expressed by separate words, whereas
in many Indo-European languages, they are expressed by
affixes. The ambient language that a child with LI is exposed
to greatly shapes areas of ease and difficulty (Leonard,
2014b). More than a quarter of the worlds population speak
Chinese (Yip & Matthews, 2010). As one of the most im-
portant Chinese languages, Mandarin is not well studied in
the realm of LI (Leonard, 2014a). To equip Chinese speech-
language pathologists with more accurate assessments
and effective interventions, we first need to understand
the linguistic weaknesses of Mandarin-speaking children
with LI.
Narrative production incorporates various language
components into a complete story. Narrative evaluation
thus provides a rich description of childrens expressive lan-
guage. Assessing narrative production is informative in
understanding language manifestations of children with
LI. Using narrative analysis, previous studies have revealed
multiple deficits in children with LI who speak Indo-European
languages, including effects on the organization of com-
plete and coherent stories, and the diversity and complex-
ity of linguistic expressions (e.g., de Villiers, 2004; Reilly,
Losh, Bellugi, & Wulfeck, 2004; Tsimpli et al., 2016).
To the best of our knowledge, only three studies
(Cheung, 2009; Tsai & Chang, 2008; Zhang, 2009) evalu-
ated narrative production in Mandarin-speaking children
with LI. All of them had very small sample sizes (n6).
Shanghai Childrens Medical Center Affiliated with the Medical
School of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China
MOE-Shanghai Key Laboratory of Childrens Environmental
Health, China
The University of Texas at Austin
University of Delaware, Newark
Smith College, Northampton, MA
Bethel Hearing and Speaking Training Center, Farmers Branch,
Corinth, TX
The University of Texas at Dallas
Correspondence to Xueman Lucy Liu:
Editor-in-Chief: Sean Redmond
Editor: Janna Oetting
Received September 18, 2016
Revision received April 17, 2017
Accepted August 28, 2017
Disclosure: The narrative evaluation is under development as a test and the authors
have financial interests in future royalties.
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 115 Copyright © 2017 The Authors
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Though these studies revealed a number of difficulties in
Mandarin-speaking children with LI, most of these find-
ings have not been replicated. The current study intended
to replicate and extend previous findings and identify weak-
nesses in Mandarin-speaking children with LI using a
larger sample size.
Narrative evaluation typically comprises macro- and
microstructure analyses (Gagarina, Klop, Tsimpli, &
Walters, 2016; Justice, Bowles, Pence, & Gosse, 2010).
Macrostructure measures the global organization of a
story, including descriptions of characters, settings, initial
events, charactersinternal states and plans, actions, and
consequences (Gillam, Gillam, Fargo, Olszewski, & Segura,
2017). Microstructure, however, takes into account fine-
grained language-internal properties, such as the usage of
different syntactic structures and specific types of words
(Gorman, Bingham, Fiestas, & Terry, 2016; Justice et al.,
2010). Microstructure evaluation also includes more gen-
eral measures providing information about overall oral
language productivity and complexity. For example, total
number of utterances (TNU) and total number of words
(TNW) reflect story length (Muñoz, Gillam, Peña, & Gulley-
Faehnle, 2003). The number of different words (NDW)
indicates lexical diversity (Muñoz et al., 2003). Mean length
of utterance (MLU) is related to stages of syntactic devel-
opment (Brown, 1973) and reflects grammatical complex-
ity (Scarborough, Rescorla, Tager-Flusberg, Fowler, &
Sudhalter, 1991). These measures can be generated by lan-
guage analysis software, such as the Systematic Analysis of
Language Transcript (Miller & Chapman, 2002) and Com-
puterized Language Analysis (MacWhinney, 2000). Com-
pared with fine-grained microstructure measures, these
measures provide more general indices of childrens linguis-
tic skills.
On the basis of previous literature, we categorized
childrens narrative skills into three components: macro-
structure, general microstructure, and fine-grained micro-
structure. In the following, we will review findings from
Indo-European languages under the three components.
Then, we will review findings from Mandarin-speaking
children with LI and Cantonese-speaking children with LI.
Together, these bodies of literature informed our selection
of narrative measures.
Narrative Skills in Indo-European Languages
Across different Indo-European languages, children
with LI have demonstrated lower performance in macro-
structure components of story settings, topic maintenance,
problem resolution, event sequencing, and internal states
(e.g., Miranda, Mccable, & Bliss, 1998; Squires et al., 2014;
Tsimpli et al., 2016). The usage of evaluative devices is a
particularly vulnerable domain. Children with LI have dif-
ficulties using words to express diverse emotions, such as
mental states (e.g., happy), attention-seeking exclamations
(e.g., look!), and affective behaviors (e.g., He was crying;
Reilly et al., 2004). Both the deficits in language and theory
of mind (i.e., taking othersperspectives into account) may
contribute to the low performance on internal state descrip-
tions in children with LI (de Villiers, 2007). On the one
hand, understanding othersintentions and emotions is a
prerequisite for expressing internal responses; on the other
hand, improvement in language helps children to verbally
organize observations of internal responses.
Children with LI do not always perform more poorly
on all narrative macrostructure elements. In Norbury and
Bishop (2003), no difference was found between the English-
speaking, typically developing (TD) group and the group
with LI (6 to 10 years old) in the inclusion of initiating
events, attempts, and resolutions. While the two groups
achieved high scores in initiating events and attempts,
resolutions seemed to be challenging for both the TD
group and the group with LI. The authors claimed that
the ability to include resolutions developed late in both typ-
ical and atypical children. However, other later-acquired
elements, such as internal responses and plans, may have
provided a more complete picture of childrens narrative per-
formance (Heilmann, Miller, Nockerts, & Dunaway, 2010).
Heilmann et al. also pointed out that a sensitive macro-
structure evaluation should measure both quantity and
quality (i.e., whether childrens production is related to the
primary storyline) of macrostructure elements. The exami-
nation of both aspects should exhibit better sensitivity be-
cause a scoring rubric of this type is more stringent, hence
better equipped to identify areas of weaknesses in childrens
narrative skills.
General Microstructure
General microstructure measures have been exten-
sively studied in previous research. MLU and the usage of
complex sentences reflect syntactic complexity (Scarborough
et al., 1991), and both have been found to be indicators dis-
tinguishing children with and without LI across different
languages (e.g., English: Fey et al., 2004; Rice et al., 2010;
Greek: Tsimpli et al., 2016; Spanish: Restrepo, 1998). Rice
et al. (2010) found that both MLU in words and MLU in
morphemes were reliable indices that identified English-
speaking children with LI in a wide age range, from 3 to
9 years old. English-speaking children with LI displayed
lower usage of complex sentences (Reilly et al., 2004), which
were defined as containing two verb phrases, with one
coordinated or subordinated to the other (e.g., The boy
WANTS to OPEN the box).
Diversity measures (i.e., NDW) are more likely to
reveal language deficits than productivity measures (i.e.,
TNW and TNU). In English and Greek, children with LI
produced fewer NDW than children without LI (Hewitt,
Hammer, Yont, & Tomblin, 2005; Rezzonico et al., 2015;
Tsimpli et al., 2016). The two productivity measures, TNW
and TNU, do not seem to differentiate children with and
without LI. Children with LI were as productive as TD
age controls in TNW (Guo, Tomblin, & Samelson, 2008;
Hick, Joseph, Conti-Ramsden, Serratrice, & Faragher, 2002)
and total number of morphemes (Norbury & Bishop, 2003).
Similarly, the two groups of children were comparable in
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TNU (Cleave, Girolametto, Chen, & Johnson, 2010; Fey
et al., 2004; Guo et al., 2008; Norbury & Bishop, 2003).
Compared with the diversity measure (i.e., NDW), TNW
and TNU reflect verbosity. Language deficits may be more
likely to manifest in the quality (reflected by diversity mea-
sures) than in the quantity (reflected by productivity mea-
sures) of language.
Grammaticality has also been frequently studied. In
English, children with LI made more grammatical errors
than TD controls, such as omitting and misusing verb
auxiliaries, determiners, tense markers, and subjectverb
agreement (Leonard, 2014a). Reilly et al. (2004) calculated
the ratio of morphological errors to the total number of
prepositions from English-speaking childrens narrative
production. They found a sharp contrast between the TD
group and the group with LI in percentages of errors:
nearly 50% for the group with LI and less than 10% for
the TD group. Fey et al. (2004) found that English-speaking
children with LI produced a lower percentage of gram-
matical communication-units (C-units) than TD children
in oral narrative production. While TD fourth-grade chil-
dren achieved grammatical accuracy of 84%, the accuracy
of children with LI was 75%. In Swedish, a significant dif-
ference was also found between TD children and children
with LI in the percentage of grammatically correct C-units
(Reuterskiöld et al., 2011).
Fine-Grained Microstructure
In recent years, a sizable body of work has included
fine-grained microstructure measures in narrative analysis.
Justice et al. (2010) proposed a fine-grained microstructure
assessment protocol, including 18 English properties rang-
ing from sentence structure, phrase structure, modifiers,
and nouns to verbs. The authors reported good construct
validity and criterion-related validity of their assessment
protocol in 262 TD English-speaking children. The results
suggested that assessing fine-grained microstructure ele-
ments was potentially effective in monitoring child lan-
guage development and detecting children with LI. By
adapting the English protocol into Spanish, Gorman et al.
(2016) created a Spanish microstructure assessment pro-
tocol. Its usage in 67 preschool children also indicated
good construct and concurrent and predictive validity.
Reuterskiöld et al. (2011) compared Swedish-speaking
children with and without LI on several fine-grained micro-
structure elements. Differences were found in the diversity
of verbs. However, aside from the handful of studies, fine-
grained microstructure measures have not been widely used
to evaluate children with LI.
To summarize, in Indo-European languages, macro-
structure and general microstructure measures (lexical
diversity, syntactic complexity, and grammaticality) can
capture the differences between children with LI and with-
out LI, whereas verbosity measures may not. The emerg-
ing literature on fine-grained microstructure measures
suggest that these measures are potentially differentiating
between children with LI and without LI.
Narrative Skills in Mandarin
Mandarin and Indo-European languages are typo-
logically distinct languages. One prominent difference lies
in the area of morphosyntax. Indo-European languages
typically have richer morphosyntactic transformations,
whereas Mandarin lacks these changes. We take the com-
parison between Mandarin and English as an illustration.
While English uses -sto mark plurality, Mandarin does
not have a similar plural form. A bare noun can be singu-
lar or plural according to the context. While English marks
subjectverb agreement, Mandarin does not. English sen-
tences should agree in person and in number (e.g., I am,
you are, he is), whereas Mandarin does not have similar
rules. Given these Mandarin-specific features, we cannot
assume that all measures borrowed from Indo-European
languages will be differentiating in Mandarin. The likeli-
hood of finding grammatical errors may be smaller in a
narrative context in which children have much flexibility
in choosing language expressions. In the following, we
will review the three Mandarin narrative studies (Cheung,
2009; Tsai & Chang, 2008; Zhang, 2009) and see what dif-
ferentiating measures have been found in Mandarin.
Zhang (2009) compared two 4-year-old children with
LI and their age matches. Children with LI needed the
examiner to ask questions to elicit production and continue
storytelling. The group with LI produced fewer macro-
structure elements (e.g., actions, settings) and exhibited
lower usage of various expressions of internal state than the
TD matches. Likewise, Tsai and Chang (2008) observed
deficits in macrostructure in six Mandarin-speaking chil-
dren with LI at 8 to 9 years old when compared to age
matches. In addition, they found that general microstructure
measures revealed group differences, including word pro-
ductivity (i.e., TNW), lexical diversity (i.e., NDW), and
syntactic complexity (i.e., MLU; Tsai & Chang, 2008). The
two groups demonstrated comparable performance on sen-
tence productivity (i.e., TNU). This is different from find-
ings in many Indo-European language studies that did not
find a difference in either productivity measure (TNW and
TNU; e.g., Guo et al., 2008; Norbury & Bishop, 2003).
These findings from Tsai and Chang (2008) need to be rep-
licated using a larger sample size. In addition, fine-grained
microstructure evaluation examining the usage of specific
linguistic properties was not conducted.
Cheung (2009) focused on general and fine-grained
microstructure elements in an 18-month longitudinal study
of two 7-year-old Mandarin-speaking children with LI.
trols who were 2.5-year-olds. Children with LI showed
more usage of various complex sentences than their MLU
matches. Regarding the two fine-grained microstructure
elements (i.e., classifiers and aspect markers), children with
LI did not outperform the TD controls who were almost
5 years younger. This suggests that the two microstructure
measures are likely to be delayed in Mandarin-speaking
children with LI in comparison to TD age matches. In the
following, we will describe the two Mandarin features and
childrens acquisition of the two features.
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Mandarin is extremely rich in the use of nominal
classifiers. The number of classifiers in Hanyu Liangci
Cidian (A Dictionary of Chinese Classifiers) reached 902
(Zhang, 2007). A nominal classifier is obligatory and must
appear between a number/demonstrative/quantifier and
a noun. The classifier typically indicates the property of
the entity the noun is referring to (Erbaugh, 2006; Li &
Thompson, 1981). In Example (1), genis inserted be-
tween the number (two) and the noun (needle) indicating
a thin, slender, and stick-like object.
liǎng gēnzhēn
two classifier-gen needle
two needles
Erbaugh (2006) pointed out that children acquire
classifiers slowly as they expand their vocabulary. It takes
time for children to sort different semantic categories in-
grained in different classifiers. It also takes time for chil-
dren to learn the arbitrary usage of some classifiers. For
children with LI, the process of sorting semantic categories
and acquiring arbitrary usage may be longer.
Mandarin uses grammatical morphemes to mark
aspect. Instead of showing the absolute time of a situation,
aspect markers express different perspectives on the situa-
tion (Li & Thompson, 1981). Generally, aspect markers
can be categorized into perfective morphemes (le, guo)
and progressive morphemes (zai,zhe)
(Klein, Li, &
Hendriks, 2000). Perfective morphemes show that an ac-
tion is completed or a status is formed, whereas progres-
sive morphemes indicate that the action is in progress. See
Example (2) for the usage of perfective marker leand
Example (3) for the usage of progressive marker zhe.
In Example (2), the action mai(buy) is completed from
the speakers viewpoint, whereas in Example (3), the action
chi(eat) is in progress.
Xiǎonǚhaí maǐle yí gè dàngāo.
Little girl buy perfective-aspect one classifier-ge cake.
The little girl bought a cake.
Xiǎonǚhaí chīzhe yí gè dàngāo.
Little girl eat progressive-aspect one classifier-ge cake.
The little girl is eating a cake.
Aspect markers can be optional, and the omission of
aspect markers does not render a sentence ungrammatical
in Cantonese (Fletcher, Leonard, Stokes, & Wong, 2005).
Similar to Cantonese, Mandarin also allows the optional-
ity of aspect markers. However, in both languages, there
are contexts in which aspect markers are preferred if not
obligatory (Fletcher et al., 2005; Klein et al., 2000). It is
important to note that older Mandarin-speaking children
produced more aspect markers to specify perspectives of
time in a narrative setting than younger children (Shu,
Other Potential Indicators of LI in Mandarin
In addition to a narrative analysis, a growing body
of literature investigated the acquisition of Mandarin lin-
guistic features using cloze tasks. In this task, children are
asked to fill in words or phrases that are missing where
the context mandates them to use the target features. In a
study by He and Dai (2012), twelve 5-year-old, Mandarin-
speaking children with LI were less accurate in using
negations than TD age matches. They either did not use
any negation form in an obligatory context or used a wrong
negative form that was inappropriate in the context. In
Zeng, Li, Li, and He (2013), the same group of children
with LI displayed less production of basentences. The
bastructure is a Mandarin active sentence structure
with a noncanonical word order (agent + ba + patient +
action). The noncanonical word order may cause more
difficulty for children with LI. See Example (4) for an ex-
ample of bastructure.
Tābǎdàngāochīwán le.
She ba cake eat resultative-finish perfective-aspect.
She finished eating the cake.
Findings from Cantonese-speaking children with LI
motivate the investigation of additional fine-grained micro-
structure elements. The passive structure, also involving a
noncanonical word order, challenges Cantonese-speaking
children with LI. Compared with TD age matches, chil-
dren with LI demonstrated lower percentages of full and
grammatical passive sentences in contexts encouraging the
production of passive structure (Leonard, Wong, Deevy,
Stokes, & Fletcher, 2006). Mandarin passive structure is
similar to Cantonese passive structure. A passive structure
follows the noncanonical word order of patient + bei +
agent + action.See Example (5) for Mandarin passive
Tābeì gǒu zhuīle.
He bei dog chase perfective-aspect.
He was chased by a dog.
In summary, evidence from previous Mandarin or
Cantonese studies suggests that Mandarin-speaking children
with LI may demonstrate difficulties in the above six fine-
grained microstructure elements, including classifiers, per-
fective and progressive aspect markers, negation, active
bastructure, and passive beistructure. It should be
noted that except for aspect markers, all features are oblig-
atory if children chose to use the corresponding structures.
Though aspect markers are optional, they are more likely
To be more precise, leis the perfective marker, guois the
experiential marker, zaiis the progressive marker, and zheis the
durative marker (Li & Thompson, 1981). However, in general, both
leand guocan be categorized as perfective markers, and both
zaiand zhecan be categorized as progressive markers (Klein
et al., 2000).
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to be present in language production from more mature
Mandarin speakers (Shu, 2004). In addition to the fine-grained
microstructure measures, findings of macrostructure and gen-
eral microstructure deficits in Mandarin-speaking children
with LI need to be replicated. Grammaticality has not been
investigated in previous studies in Mandarin. The lack of
morphosyntactic features in Mandarin leads us to question
whether grammaticality can reliably differentiate Mandarin-
speaking children with and without LI in a narrative context.
Research Goals and Predictions
In this study, we intended to identify linguistic defi-
cits in Mandarin-speaking children with LI using narrative
analysis. We evaluated narrative production in a larger
sample of Mandarin-speaking children with LI (n=18)
and their age-matched controls (n= 18). On the basis of
a review of narrative evaluation in Indo-European lan-
guages and Mandarin/Cantonese, our narrative analyses
included three components: macrostructure, general micro-
structure (i.e., TNU, TNW, NDW, MLU, usage of com-
plex sentences, and grammaticality), and fine-grained
microstructure (i.e., classifiers, perfective and progressive
aspect markers, negation, bastructure, and beistructure).
We expected to see weaknesses in Mandarin-speaking
children with LI in macrostructure, as previous narra-
tive findings were consistent in showing the deficit (e.g.,
de Villiers, 2004; Tsai & Chang, 2008). Mandarin-speaking
children with LI would also demonstrate lower perfor-
mance in lexical diversity (i.e., NDW) and syntactic com-
plexity (i.e., MLU and proportion of complex sentences),
as shown in previous narrative studies across different lan-
guages (e.g., English: Fey et al., 2004; Mandarin: Tsai &
Chang, 2008; Cantonese: Klee, Stokes, Wong, Fletcher, &
Gavin, 2004; Greek: Tsimpli et al., 2016). Verbosity (i.e.,
TNU and TNW) would be comparable between children
with LI and without LI on the basis of previous literature
(e.g., Norbury & Bishop, 2003). Based on our analysis of
Mandarin-specific characteristics (the sparsity of morpho-
syntactic morphemes), grammaticality would also be
comparable between the two groups. Informed by existing
literature in Mandarin-speaking or Cantonese-speaking
children with LI (Cheung, 2009; He & Dai, 2012; Leonard
et al., 2006; Zeng et al., 2013; Zhang, 2009), the six fine-
grained microstructure elements hold the most promise
to differentiate the group with LI and the TD group. We
therefore predicted to see differences between the TD
group and the group with LI on the six measures.
Participants in the current study were drawn from a
larger sample who participated in the validation study (Liu
et al., 2017) of the Diagnostic Receptive and Expressive
Assessment of Mandarin (DREAM; Ning, Liu, & de Villiers,
2014). The children were recruited from the Developmental
and Behavioral Pediatrics Clinic at Shanghai Childrens
Medical Center. All families with children between 2;6
(years;months) and 7;11 who visited the hospital during Oc-
tober 2014 were invited to participate. A total of 300 chil-
dren were initially recruited, but 70 of them were excluded
because they did not meet the following criteria: normal
hearing, normal or corrected-to-normal vision, and no
diagnosis of autism, neurological disorder, genetic disorder,
intellectual disability, or cerebral palsy. Children were
administered a battery of tests, including but not limited to
the DREAM, the Primary Test of Nonverbal Intelligence
(PTONI; Ehrler & McGhee, 2008), and either a spontane-
ous language (for children between 2;6 and 3;11) or a nar-
rative sample (for children between 4;0 and 7;11). Of the
230 children, 99 (age range: 4;07;11) produced narratives
elicited by the experimental version of the Mandarin Ex-
pressive Narrative Test (MENT; de Villiers & Liu, 2014).
We used a set of criteria to qualify children with LI
in this study: (a) children had at least one component stan-
dard score at or below 80 (1.3 SD below the mean or the
10th percentile) on the DREAM; (b) children had diffi-
culty with oral language according to pediatricians judg-
ment; and (c) children had a nonverbal IQ score that is
70 (2 SDs below the mean) or above on the PTONI.
The DREAM is a standardized oral language test
for children ages 2;6 to 7;11. It was normed on a nation-
ally representative sample of 969 children in Mainland
China. The test provides four component scores: receptive
language, expressive language, syntax, and semantics. As
reported by Liu et al. (2017), testretest reliability was high
(r= .85). External validity was assessed using spontaneous
language indices (e.g., sentence complexity, vocabulary
diversity) and narrative indices (e.g., the inclusion of men-
tal verbs and connectives).
The correlation coefficient
between DREAM scores and spontaneous language was
.7 (p< .001) and that between DREAM and narrative
indices was .45 ( p< .01).
We used a cutoff score of 80 on any of the DREAM
components as one of our inclusionary criteria. According
to Liu et al. (2017), the DREAM demonstrated the best
sensitivity (73%) and specificity (82%) using this criterion
(< 80 on one component) when measured against a priori
MENT © 2014 by Bethel Hearing and Speaking Training Center Inc.
Different IQ cutoff scores have been adopted by researchers (Gallinat
& Spaulding, 2014). In our sample, five children with LI scored from
70 to 79. To see whether lower IQ scores changed our findings, we
conducted comparisons on all dependent variables between the reduced
sample (n= 13) of children with LI and their age matches (all childrens
IQ scores were above 80). The results from the reduced sample were
the same as those from the unreduced sample. Therefore, we included
children whose IQ scores were between 70 and 79 to maintain a larger
and a more representative sample.
Note that for the current study, we only included narrative samples
from the older children, not spontaneous samples from the younger
children. The measures used in the validation of the DREAM are
different from the measures we selected in the current study. From Liu
et al. (2017), they measured the usage of mental verbs and connectives,
but we focused on other narrative measures.
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judgment by pediatricians, who usually make decisions of
this kind in China. The sensitivity of the DREAM improved
to 95% when spontaneous language sample (either sponta-
neous or narrative) performance and a priori judgment
were combined as the gold standard. Specificity remained
the same under the second approach.
Multiple researchers have advocated for the inclusion
of ecologically valid indicators of LI in addition to a statis-
tically driven definition. Bishop (1997) suggested the use
of a real-life concern expressed by those who are familiar
with the child. Bedore, Peña, Joyner, and Macken (2011)
and Peña, Resendiz, and Gillam (2007) reported that par-
ent, teacher, and clinician judgments provided reliable
indicators of language ability. In light of these recommen-
dations, we used the judgment of a developmental and
behavioral pediatrician as a converging indicator of LI.
Upon enrollment in the study, the caregiver of each child
was asked if they had any concerns about the childs oral
language ability. If the answer was affirmative, the pediatri-
cian asked follow-up questions in an informal interview
(e.g., the childs ability to ask and answer questions and
understand and follow directions, vocabulary, word retrieval,
sentence formulation skills, and conservational and peer
interaction skills). Based on the caregiversanswers, the
pediatrician formed a clinical impression.
For this study, the 18 children (age range: 4;37;11)
met all three criteria and were categorized as having LI. For
each child in the group with LI, we selected a TD child
who was within 5 months of age as a match (age range:
4;37;9). The TD controls achieved 80 or higher on all four
components of the DREAM, and there were no caregiver
concerns regarding language development. Children with
LI achieved lower performance than the TD children in
the four components and the total scores of the DREAM
(see Table 1). Children with LI in our sample more com-
monly displayed deficits in expressive language (17/18) and
in the domain of syntax (10/18).
In addition to age, we made an effort to match the
group with LI and the TD group on primary caregivers
education and childrens nonverbal IQ scores. Education
was ranked into five levels ranging from 1 to 5. Five rep-
resented the highest education level (PhD/masters), and
1 represented the lowest (middle school or lower). Nonver-
bal IQ was measured using the Chinese translation of the
PTONI (Ehrler & McGhee, 2008). The test included a
set of pictures for each testing item, and children were
required to point to a picture that was different from the
others. The PTONI was normed in a culturally diverse
sample, with 1,010 children from 38 states in the United
States. Though it was not normed in Mainland China, it
was considered to be largely free of cultural bias. The group
differences in caregiver education and PTONI scores were
not significant. Though not significant, the plevels were
close to .10. To address these potential confounds, we
examined the correlations between dependent variables
and education level/IQ scores before conducting group
comparisons. If they were significantly correlated, we would
enter them as covariates.
Materials and Procedure
Three stories were depicted on three wordless picture
series from the experimental version of the MENT. Each
story had at least two characters, a complication in the
events that encouraged talk of problems and resolutions,
visual presentation of charactersemotions, and depiction
of multiple actions. For example, one story contained two
characters. One character sees some food placed in one
location and leaves. The other character moves the food
to a new place out of sight and leaves. When the first char-
acter returns, he or she tries to look for the food. Thought
balloons were depicted to demonstrate charactersdesires
and thoughts and to elicit production of internal responses
and plans. For instance, when the first character decides
to move the food, a balloon shows that the move is meant
to keep the food fresh. When the other character comes
back, there is a thought balloon showing that he or she is
thinking of the food. In order to tell this story, children
need to take the charactersperspective into account and
describe their internal states. Detailed information about
the MENT can be found in Appendix C of Liu et al. (2017).
An examiner presented pictures to the children one
by one in sequence. After viewing all pictures, the exam-
iner asked the children to tell the story with pictorial sup-
port. If a child did not follow the sequence in which the
pictures were presented, the examiner corrected the child
and required the child to follow the sequence. All stories
were video-recorded. A linguistics undergraduate who is a
native Mandarin speaker transcribed the recordings into
Chinese characters. The undergraduate was not aware of
the LI/TD status of the participants. The first author,
also a native Mandarin speaker, proofread all transcrip-
tions and corrected transcription errors. The first author
then coded the samples using the Computerized Language
Analysis software program (MacWhinney, 2000). At the
time of coding, the first author was also blind to the group
On the basis of Monitoring Indicators of Scholarly
Language (Gillam et al., 2017), we coded seven macro-
structure elements, including character, setting, initiating
event, internal response, plan, action series, and conse-
quence. Each element was scored on a scale from 0 to 3.
As in the Monitoring Indicators of Scholarly Language,
we used a combination of quantitative and qualitative
analyses. We took into account the frequency of occurrence
of each macrostructure element, as well as the connection
of the production to the main storyline. For example, for
the element action series, 0 means that no action is taken
More specifically, eight children with LI were below 80 in only the
expressive component; five were below 80 in all components; four
were below 80 in expressive and syntax components; and one was
below 80 in all but the expressive component.
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by any character, 1 is including actions that are taken by
characters but not related to the story, 2 is including at least
a series of actions that is related to the main story but does
not form a complete episode, and 3 means that the action
series relates to the main story and forms a complete episode.
Table 2 presents macrostructure scoring rubric and examples.
General Microstructure Measures
We segmented sentences on the basis of C-unit (Loban,
1976) that consists of a main clause with all dependent
clauses attached to it. For example, The little boy said I
dont know’” is a C-unit. It has a subordinate clause I
dont knowembedded in the main clause The little boy
said.”“He found a ladder. He went there.consists of
two C-units and should be counted as two utterances. The
second sentence does not attach to the first, so both are
independent clauses. Sentence segmentation formed the
basis of the TNU measure. Word segmentation was at the
word level instead of the morpheme level, due to the fact
that Mandarin grammatical features are realized at the word
level. Word segmentation formed the basis of the TNW
and NDW measures.
We coded complex sentences (C-units) and calculated
percentages of complex sentences (number of complex sen-
tences divided by TNU). A sentence with two or more than
two main verbs was regarded as a complex sentence. Two
verbs can have an embedding relation in which one clause
is embedded in another clause. In Example (6), the clause
with the verb zou(walked away/left) is embedded in the
clause with the verb kan(see). Two verbs can also have a
compounding relation. In Example (7), huishou(wave)
and shuo(say) are compounded showing a sequence of
actions. This structure is a serial verb construction (no con-
nective between the two verbs; Cheung, 2009).
Tākàn dào nánhaí zǒu le.
He see verb-resultative boy leave perfective-marker
He saw that the boy left.
Tāhuīshǒu shuōzaìjiàn.
He wave hand say goodbye
He waved and said goodbye.
In addition, we coded ungrammatical sentences
(C-units) in which ungrammaticality could arise from
any component of a sentence. Example (8) includes a loca-
tive phrase in which the preposition is missing. In addi-
tion, the sentence has an incomplete noun phrase in which
the head noun is missing. We calculated percentages of
ungrammaticality (number of ungrammatical sentences
divided by TNU).
Bàba shuōyào (zaì) wūdǐng shàng huà yí gè hóngsè (?)
Father say need (preposition zaimissing) house
roof above paint one classifier red (?).
Father said that (they) need to paint a red (?) (on)
the roof of the house.
Fine-Grained Microstructure Measures
Based upon a review of Mandarin grammar (Li &
Thompson, 1981) and studies of Mandarin or Cantonese
microstructure and grammar acquisition (Cheung, 2009;
He & Dai, 2012; Leonard et al., 2006; Zeng et al., 2013;
Zhang, 2009), we counted the frequency of the bastruc-
ture, beistructure, negation, classifier, perfective aspect
marker le/guo,and progressive aspect marker zai/zhe.
All coded occurrences were accurate usage of these features
(inaccurate usage was included in the measure of gram-
maticality above). See Table 3 for descriptions and exam-
ples of each element.
Following the same rubric, another research assistant
independently transcribed 20% of the narrative production
that were randomly selected from all narratives. Regarding
macrostructure, Cohensk(a statistic measuring interrater
Table 1. Participant information by typicality.
LI (n= 18) TD (n= 18)
tpvalueMSD MSD
Age (months;years) 6;2 1;2 6;2 1;1 0.14 .894
Gender: male/female 14/4 10/8
Education 2.33 1.14 3.00 1.28 1.65 .108
IQ 90.44 16.69 98.89 12.31 1.73 .094
DREAMTotal 83.61 9.77 100.61 8.47 5.85 <.001
DREAMReceptive 84.65 10.57 100.72 9.08 4.53 <.001
DREAMExpressive 72.44 7.64 98.89 9.88 7.79 <.001
DREAMSyntax 79.33 7.67 94.06 6.70 6.08 <.001
DREAMSemantics 87.50 13.00 106.89 11.85 4.99 <.001
Note. Education is presented in scales ranging from 1 to 5: 5 = PhD/masters degree,4=bachelors
degree,3=associate degree,2=high school,1=middle school or lower. The IQ scores and DREAM
scores are standard scores. Independent-samples ttests were conducted to compare the two groups.
LI = language impairment; TD = typically developing; DREAM = Diagnostic Receptive and Expressive
Assessment of Mandarin.
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agreement for qualitative data) indicated that agreement
between the two coders was substantial (k= 0.633, p< .0001;
Landis & Koch, 1977). Sentence and word segmentation
formed the basis for the general microstructure measures
of MLU, NDW, TNW, and TNU. Following Rezzonico
et al. (2015), reliability of sentence and word segmentation
was computed using the formula: number of agreements /
(number of agreements + number of disagreements). The
reliability was 89% for sentence segmentations (total: 263,
agreement: 234, disagreement: 29) and 93% for word segmen-
tations (total: 1,719, agreement: 1,605, disagreement: 114).
All disagreements were resolved by discussion. For the
other two general microstructure elements (i.e., complex
sentences, ungrammatical sentences) and the six fine-
grained microstructure elements, we followed Justice et al.
(2010): Agreement occurred when two coders scored within
one occurrence difference. For example, if one rater counted
the occurrence of an element four times and the other counted
it five times, their scorings were considered consistent. The
interrater consistency for these measures ranged from 91%
to 100%.
We first conducted Pearsonscorrelationstoseewhether
education level and IQ scores were related to the depen-
dent variables. No significant correlations were found be-
tween education levels/IQ scores and any of the dependent
variables. Therefore, we did not enter education level and
IQ scores as covariates.
In the following, we conducted 18 group compari-
sons (all measures except proportions of complex sentences
and ungrammatical sentences) using independent-samples
ttests. To protect against the inflation of Type I error rate,
a BenjaminiHochberg procedure (Benjamini & Hochberg,
1995) was conducted for the 18 comparisons. The Benjamini
Hochberg procedure is less conservative than the Bonferroni
correction that may mask important clinical findings by
Table 2. Macrostructure scoring rubric and examples.
01 2 3
Character No character is included or
only pronouns are used.
e.g., he, she
Includes characters
that are not related
to the storyline.
Includes one of the
two characters.
Includes both characters.
e.g., girl, mother
Setting No time or place is stated. Includes at least one
time or place that
is not related to
the storyline.
Includes one time or one
place that is related to
the storyline.
e.g., 1 day, in the fridge
Includes at least two times or
two places that are related
to the storyline.
event (IE)
A problem or starting
event is not stated.
Includes events or
problems that are
not related to the
Includes one event or
problem that is related
to the primary storyline.
e.g., The girl wants
to eat it.
Includes more than one event
or problem that is related
to the primary storyline.
No feelings, desires, or
thoughts are stated.
Includes expressions of
feelings, desires, or
thoughts that are not
related to the IEs.
Includes two feelings, desires,
or thoughts that are directly
related to the IEs.
e.g. , The mother thought
that it should be put into
Includes more than two feelings,
desires, or thoughts that are
directly related to the IEs.
Plan No statement is provided
about the characters
plan to solve the
Includes one statement
of plan that is not
related to the IEs.
Includes one statement
of plan that is directly
related to the IEs.
e.g., She is going to eat it.
Includes at least two statements
of plan that are directly
related to the IEs.
Action series No action is taken by
any of the characters.
There are a series of
random descriptions.
e.g., A girl. Another girl.
Actions are taken by
the characters but
are not directly related
to the IEs.
e.g., They are boiling
eggs. (no such action
At least one action that is
directly related to the
IEs is taken by the main
character. However, the
action series do not form
a complete episode.
e.g., She gets the cake.
Includes a series of actions
that are directly related to
the IEs and can be formed
into a complete episode.
e.g., She is afraid the cake
may melt. She gets the cake
and moves it into the fridge.
Consequences No consequence is stated. There are statements of
consequences, but
they are not related
to the IEs.
Includes one consequence
that is directly related
to the IEs.
e.g., She puts the cake
into the fridge.
Includes at least two
consequences that are
directly related to the IEs.
Note. The examples are from one of the three stories. The rubric varies for different stories on the basis of the storyline and observations of
childrens overall performance.
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increasing Type II error (false negative; Glickman, Rao, &
Schultz, 2014; Perneger, 1998). This procedure controls the
false discovery rate (d), the expected proportion of errors
among all the rejected hypotheses, by ordering pvalues
from smallest to largest. In the BenjaminiHochberg pro-
cedure, smaller pvalues are retained based on the number
of comparisons. If a pvalue is equal or less than d×(i/n)
(iis the rank of the pvalues, and nis the number of com-
parisons), the test is significant. We set the false discovery
rate at 0.05, a cutoff often used (Glickman et al., 2014).
At a false discovery rate of 0.05, a difference was sig-
nificant at p< .025. We also calculated Cohensdeffect
size (mean differences between the two groups divided by
pooled standard deviations) to reveal clinically important
discoveries. A Cohensdvalue of 0.8 is considered a
large effect; 0.5, a medium effect; and 0.2 a small effect
(Cohen, 1988).
Independent-samples ttests may not be appropriate
for percentage comparisons. For proportions of complex
sentences (number of complex sentences divided by TNU)
and ungrammatical sentences (number of ungrammatical
sentences divided by TNU), we used generalized linear
models with a binomial family and log link that compared
the two groups on the likelihood of using complex sentences
and ungrammatical sentences. In the models, odds ratios
were used to report effect estimates. The BenjaminiHochberg
procedure was also implemented to reduce Type I error for
the two comparisons, and the false discovery rate was also
Independent-samples ttests were used to compare
the two groups on macrostructure elements. Table 4 pre-
sents the results. The two groups significantly differed on
macrostructure total scores. Regarding individual elements,
the group with LI displayed lower performance than the
TD group on character, setting, internal response, action
series, and consequence. Large effect sizes for the above dif-
ferences by group were found. Particularly, children with
LI displayed very little usage of internal responses, and the
averaged score of 0.07 indicated that there were almost no
statements about charactersinternal states. No significant
difference was found for the element of plan, with both
groups showing very little production of the plan (both
groupsaveraged scores were below 0.5). Between-groups
difference on initiating event approached significance with
a medium effect size.
General Microstructure Measures
We compared childrens performance on general micro-
structure measures, including MLU, NDW, TNW, and
TNU. MLU was calculated using the formula: MLU =
TNW/TNU. Independent-samples ttests were conducted
Table 3. Fine-grained microstructure definitions and examples.
Fine-grained microstructure
elements Definitions Examples
Ba Mandarin active sentence structure
with a word order agent + ba +
patient + action(bais obligatory)
Dìdi bǎwūding tú chéng huángsè.
Brother ba roof paint resultative yellow.
The younger brother painted the roof yellow.
Bei Mandarin passive sentence structure
with a word order patient + bei +
agent + action(beiis obligatory)
Tīzi beì tāde bàba ná zǒu le.
Ladder bei he possessive-particle father
carry go-resultative perfective-marker.
The ladder was taken away by his dad.
Negation A negation word negating a word or a
sentence (negation words are obligatory) Zhè gè xiǎonǚhaí bú shuìjiào.
This classifier little girl no sleep.
This little girl is not sleeping.
Classifier A word in between a number and a noun
showing the property of the noun (the
generic classifier gewas not counted;
classifiers are obligatory)
Xiǎo meìmei bān laí le yì ba yǐzi.
Little sister move come-resultative perfective-
aspect one classifier chair.
The younger sister brought one chair.
Perfective aspect marker Mandarin perfective aspect le/guo
marker after either a verb or an
adjective showing an action or
status is completed (perfective
aspect markers are optional in
some cases)
Yīshēng laí le.
Doctor come perfective-maker.
The doctor came.
Dìdi gāo le.
Brother tall perfective-marker.
The younger brother became taller.
Progressive aspect marker Mandarin progressive aspect marker
zai/zheshowing an action is
progressing (progressive aspect
markers are optional in some cases)
Xiǎohuá zaì shuāqiáng.
Xiaohua progressive-marker brush wall.
Xiaohua is painting the wall.
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to compare the group with LI and the TD group on these
measures (see Table 5). Children with LI demonstrated
shorter MLU and produced fewer NDW than their TD
peers with large effect sizes. The two groups did not differ
on TNW and TNU, with small to medium effect sizes. It
should be noted that both groups produced relatively short
stories (TNU: the group with LI ranged between three and
26 utterances per story; the TD group ranged between eight
and 21 utterances per story), indicating a limited amount
of data in the narrative samples.
We used generalized linear models to compare the
usage of complex sentences and ungrammatical sentences
between the two groups. In the models, dependent vari-
ables are binary (e.g., 0 indicates that a sentence is gram-
matical and 1 indicates that a sentence is ungrammatical ).
The fixed effect was the group, and participants were
treated as a random effect. The group had an effect on the
usage of complex sentences, F(1, 1244) = 20.25, p< .0001,
odds ratio = 0.55. The odds ratio indicated that the group
with LI was 45% less likely to produce complex sentences
than the TD group. On average, 38% (SD = 9%) of the sen-
tences produced by TD children were complex sentences,
and 24% (SD = 16%) of the sentences produced by chil-
dren with LI were complex sentences. No group differ-
ence was found for the usage of ungrammatical sentences,
F(1, 1244) = 0.708, p= .400, odds ratio = 1.12. The odds
more likely than TD children to produce ungrammatical
sentences. Both groups produced very few ungrammatical
sentences. On average, 2% (SD = 3%) of the sentences
produced by TD children were ungrammatical sentences,
and 4% (SD = 4%) of the sentences produced by children
with LI were ungrammatical sentences. Significance remained
the same after the BenjaminiHochberg procedure.
Fine-Grained Microstructure Measures
Independent-samples ttests were also used to com-
pare fine-grained microstructure elements. See Table 6 for
comparison results. The group with LI displayed lower
production of Mandarin perfective aspect markers with a
large effect size. Though the differences between the two
groups on the beistructure and classifier were not sig-
nificant after the BenjaminiHochberg correction, the ef-
fect size of the beistructure was large, and the effect
size of classifierapproached large. Therefore, we con-
sidered the differences to be of clinical significance.
dren with LI did not show any accurate usage of Mandarin
passive beistructure. They also displayed very low
usage of classifiers. Otherwise, all children, with LI or TD,
produced some instances of all examined microstructure
This study compared narrative skills between
Mandarin-speaking children with LI and their age-matched
TD controls. Based on previous narrative studies in children
with LI, comparisons were conducted in three components:
macrostructure, general microstructure, and fine-grained
microstructure. For macrostructure, differences between
the two groups existed in the descriptions of characters,
settings, internal responses, complete action series, and
consequences. Regarding general microstructure, the group
with LI demonstrated shorter MLU, lower NDW, and
lower usage of complex sentences than the TD group. For
fine-grained microstructure, children with LI showed
lower usage of passive beistructure, classifiers, and per-
fective aspect markers. Group difference on these measures
displayed close to large to very large effect sizes (Cohensd
ranged from 0.75 for classifiers to 1.51 for internal response).
Macrostructure measures were sensitive to the pres-
ence of LI in Mandarin, as indicated by macrostructure
Even though the group difference in TNW was not significant, the
plevel was low ( p= .113), rendering it possible that lower frequencies
of the three microstructure elements in children with LI (beisentence,
classifier and perfective aspect marker le) may have arisen from
lower TNW in the group with LI. We conducted group comparisons
of the three elements by entering TNW as a covariate. The plevels
were 0.055 (beistructure), 0.096 (classifier), and 0.006 (perfective
marker le), respectively, after controlling for TNW.
Table 4. Comparisons of macrostructure between the group with LI and the TD group.
tpvalue CohensdMSD MSD
Character 1.55 1.17 2.52 0.54 3.20 .004
Setting 1.87 0.79 2.43 0.57 2.42 .022
Initiating event 2.03 0.84 2.46 0.51 1.88 .071 0.619
Internal response 0.07 0.18 0.76 0.62 4.46 < .001
Plan 0.37 0.56 0.46 0.44 0.55 .588 0.177
Action series 2.02 0.46 2.52 0.46 3.24 .003
Consequence 1.25 0.96 1.98 0.74 2.56 .015
Total 9.16 3.80 13.13 2.46 3.73 .001
Note. All scores were averages of the three stories. All elements were scaled from 0 to 3. Independent-samples ttests were
conducted to compare the two groups. LI = language impairment; TD = typically developing.
Shows significance after conducting a BenjaminiHochberg procedure for 18 comparisons. The false discovery rate was at .05.
10 Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 115
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total scores and performance on five of the seven individ-
ual macrostructure elements. This is consistent with previ-
ous narrative findings in LI (Miranda et al., 1998; Reilly
et al., 2004; Tsai & Chang, 2008; Zhang, 2009). In our
study, the macrostructure element plan was rarely used
by children, both with LI and TD, the oldest of whom
were almost 8 years old. This suggests that the plan is a
higher level macrostructure element acquired late by chil-
dren. As we discussed in the beginning, macrostructure
assessment should include later-acquired elements so that
the assessment is sufficiently challenging and can cover a
wider age range. Future investigations of macrostructure
may include the assessment of the plan for children in later
elementary grades. It is possible that the plan will surface
as an element of deficit for children with LI in higher grade
We found that among other things, Mandarin-speaking
children with LI showed significant deficits in the produc-
tion of internal responses. Their production of internal re-
sponse elements was close to floor. In Mandarin-speaking
children with LI, it is likely that the poor performance in in-
ternal responses resulted from impairment in both language
and theory of mind (de Villiers, 2007). Group differences
in the element of initiating event did not reach statistical
significance (p= .07). However, the medium effect size
(d= 0.62) suggests that children with LI may still need
some enhancement in this macrostructure element. Future
research is also needed to see if the production of initiat-
ing event in narratives is indeed relatively intact in children
with LI.
While Mandarin syntactic complexity (i.e., MLU
and usage of complex sentences) and lexical diversity (i.e.,
NDW) were sensitive to the presence of LI, productivity
measures (i.e., TNU and TNW) were not. These are con-
sistent with findings from previous studies in many Indo-
European languages (e.g., Guo et al., 2008; Hewitt et al.,
2005). These findings may suggest that differences between
children with and without LI mainly lie in linguistic so-
phistication of narrative production, not verbosity. Even
though children with LI produced a similar number of
sentences and words as their TD peers, their production
included less-complex sentences and less-diverse vocabu-
lary. We did not replicate Tsai and Chang (2008), in
which TNW was different between Mandarin-speaking
While grammaticality is very sensitive to the presence
of LI in languages with richer morphology (e.g., Reilly
Table 5. Comparisons of general microstructure between the group with LI and the TD group.
tpvalue CohensdMSDMSD
MLU 6.18 1.85 7.52 1.36 2.46 .019
NDW 35.19 16.43 47.57 13.22 2.49 .018
TNW 71.38 49.53 93.48 28.79 1.64 .111 0.546
TNU 11.45 5.24 12.70 3.42 0.85 .402 0.283
Note. All scores were averages of the three stories. Independent-samples ttests were conducted to compare the two
groups. LI = language impairment; TD = typically developing; MLU = mean length of utterance; NDW = number of
different words; TNW = total number of words; TNU = total number of utterances.
Shows significance after conducting a BenjaminiHochberg procedure for 18 comparisons. The false discovery rate
was at .05.
Table 6. Comparisons of fine-grained microstructure between the group with LI and the TD group.
tpvalue CohensdMSDMSD
Ba structure 0.83 1.03 1.04 0.68 0.70 .490 0.240
Bei structure 0.00 0.00 0.13 0.23 2.36 .030 0.810
Negation 1.01 0.66 1.20 0.85 0.73 .472 0.250
Classifier 0.03 0.12 0.37 0.63 2.25 .037 0.750
Perfective aspect marker 2.56 2.11 4.57 1.31 3.45 .002
Progressive aspect marker 0.89 1.11 0.87 0.76 0.09 .927 0.021
Note. All scores were averages of the three stories. Independent-samples ttests were conducted to compare the two
groups. LI = language impairment; TD = typically developing.
Shows significance after conducting a BenjaminiHochberg procedure for 18 comparisons. The false discovery rate
was at .05.
Hao et al.: Narratives of Mandarin-Speaking Children With LI 11
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et al., 2004), Mandarin-speaking children with LI did not
produce more ungrammatical sentences than their TD
peers in a narrative setting. The low percentages (4% for
LI and 2% for TD) of ungrammatical sentences are in sharp
contrast to Fey et al. (2004), wherein up to 16% of the
utterances produced by TD fourth graders were ungram-
matical. Since Mandarin lacks morphosyntactic features,
grammatical errors are less likely to be manifested in
Mandarin compared with languages with richer morpho-
syntactic features. In addition to the lack of complex conju-
marking (e.g., perfective aspect le/guo,progressive aspect
zai/zhe). The optionality in aspect marking may also con-
tribute to better grammaticality performance in Mandarin-
speaking children with LI than children with LI who speak
Indo-European languages.
It should be noted that even though aspect markers
can be omitted in Mandarin, more-mature language learners
tend to use aspect markers to be clear about perspectives of
time in narratives (Shu, 2004). Therefore, the lower usage of
perfective aspect markers reflects true deficits in Mandarin-
speaking children with LI. It should also be noted that other
fine-grained Mandarin linguistic features examined in the
current study are not optional. In the baor beistruc-
ture, the word ba or bei must be included (Li & Thompson,
1981). Similarly, when describing the quantity of an object,
classifiers must be present between the number and the noun
(Erbaugh, 2006; Li & Thompson, 1981). Thus, the differ-
ences between the two groups on the usage of the bei
structure and classifiers are not confounded by optionality
but reflect real differences in childrens deployment of these
linguistic features.
Another potential reason for low ungrammaticality
resides in the spontaneous language sampling context. The
narrative context gives children the flexibility to choose
expressions that they have already mastered and to avoid
expressions that they are not confident with. Differences in
grammaticality between children with and without LI may
become more prominent in an obligatory context where
children are required to use certain language features. Also,
this may explain why we did not find a difference by group
on negation and bastructure, whereas Zeng et al. (2013)
and He and Dai (2012) found a difference using cloze tasks.
However, we think that the influence of context is second-
ary compared to the impact of language typology. In a
narrative context, performance on grammaticality differed
significantly between the TD group and the group with
LI in many Indo-European languages (e.g., Reilly et al.,
2004; Reuterskiöld et al., 2011). For these languages, the
flexibility afforded by the spontaneous language context
cannot mask the deficits of the group with LI in the mark-
ing of verb or noun-related morphological features.
The three fine-grained microstructure elements (i.e.,
Mandarin passive bei structure, Mandarin perfective
marker le/guoand classifiers) are Mandarin-specific fea-
tures not shared with Indo-European languages. These
results resonate with Leonards (2014b) proposal that
the particular language determines domains of ease and
difficulty in children with LI. English-speaking children
with LI show particular deficits in English verb conjuga-
tions (e.g., tense markers and subjectverb agreement;
Leonard, 2014a). Children with LI who speak Italian and
Spanish are found to be more likely to demonstrate deficits
in noun-related morphology (e.g., clitics, plural inflection;
Bedore & Leonard, 2001; Leonard & Dispaldro, 2013).
Mandarin-speaking children with LI, however, show a dif-
fuse array of deficits ranging from sentence structure to
verb particles and noun modifiers.
Mandarin classifiers are known to be later acquired
as a result of their vast number and complex usage
(Erbaugh, 2006). Mandarin-speaking children with LI
may need extended time learning these forms and their
corresponding semantic categories. Regarding passive
structure, children generally exhibit late mastery across
a number of languages (Leonard et al., 2006; Perovic,
Vuksanović,Petrović,&Avramović-Ilić, 2014). Mastery
of the passive structures may require more-sophisticated
linguistic knowledge and cognitive ability because the
forms involve noncanonical word order and are used in
special circumstances.
Differences in perfective aspect markers were associ-
ated with a very large effect size (d= 1.15). It is possible
that children with LI may opt to omit aspect markers when
they are not sure of the correct use. However, the lower
frequency of perfective marker in the children with LI can-
not be fully attributed to the optionality of this grammati-
cal feature because even after we factored out the potential
influence of TNW, the difference was still highly signifi-
cant (p= .006). These uncertainties notwithstanding, we
can confidently say that the TD children used perfective
aspect marking more frequently, indicating better mas-
tery and clear evidence of perspective taking in various
Conclusion, Clinical Implications, Limitations,
and Future Directions
To conclude, this study compared narrative skills
between Mandarin-speaking children with and without LI
on macrostructure and microstructure (general and fine-
grained) measures. Results revealed that Mandarin-speaking
children with and without LI showed comparable perfor-
mance in productivity and grammaticality in a narrative
context. These children exhibited weaknesses in most macro-
structure elements, lexical diversity, syntactic complexity,
and three Mandarin-specific microstructure elements.
The study has important clinical implications for
speech-language pathologists who work with children
speaking Mandarin Chinese. First, the measure of gram-
maticality was not differentiating between the TD group
and the group with LI in Mandarin-speaking children. This
is different from children speaking many Indo-European
languages where grammaticality was typically sensitive
in detecting group membership (e.g., Reilly et al., 2004).
When choosing measures to monitor childrens language
12 Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 115
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performance, researchers and speech-language pathologists
should always take language typology into account and
bear in mind that a language with very sparse morphology
may inherently lead to fewer opportunities for grammatical
violations. Second, clinicians should focus their attention
on the areas of identified weaknesses in Mandarin-speaking
children with LI, including macrostructure, lexical diver-
sity, syntactic complexity, and the three fine-grained micro-
structure elements. These areas should be directly targeted
when screening children for potential LI and when setting
intervention goals. Last but not the least, clinicians should
be aware that verbosity is secondary compared to the qual-
ity of language production. In storytelling, children with
LI may produce a comparable number of utterances and
even a comparable number of total words as their age
peers, but they are more likely to repeatedly use the same
words (i.e., lower lexical diversity), and their sentences may
be less densely packed with information (i.e., lower syntac-
tic complexity).
This study has several limitations. Children pro-
duced short story samples elicited by the three stories. This
yielded a relatively low TNU (about 36 C-units from each
child). As such, the current findings should be interpreted
with caution and need replication through larger numbers
of children and longer narrative samples. Moreover, we
conducted multiple comparisons, which increased Type I
error. However, we took the BenjaminiHochberg proce-
dure to protect against Type I error. The findings, thus,
should reliably reflect deficits in Mandarin-speaking chil-
dren with LI.
Future research could explore the effects of different
narrative tasks on narrative performance. In this study,
we did not model the task of storytelling for children.
There is debate about whether a model should be provided
to familiarize children with how to tell a story. Heilmann,
Miller, and Nockerts (2010) claimed that the provision of
a model enables children to display their best narrative
performance. However, Norbury and Bishop (2003) be-
lieved that storytelling without a model provides a more
realistic impression of childrens abilities to plan and orga-
nize stories as it is not shaped by an adult model. Future
research could also investigate speech disruption rates (e.g.,
pauses, vocal hesitations, revisions, and repetitions). Defi-
cits in these measures reflect processing difficulties in re-
trieving vocabulary and syntactic frames, and children with
LI have been found to display higher speech disruption
rates in word and sentence retrievals (Guo et al., 2008).
This study was supported by the Shanghai Municipal Edu-
cation Commission (D1502) awarded to Li Sheng, Yiwen Zhang,
and Fan Jiang and a Pudong One Hundred Award to Li Sheng.
The authors wish to thank all the participating families for
their time; Jiandan Huang, Jiaolong Yang, Huilin Chen for their
assistance with data collection; and Zijing Yu, Yuxiang Wang,
and Li Chen for their assistance with data transcription and
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... We were not able to directly compare the narrative abilities of the L1 to the L2, since we used different wordless picture book for each language which involve different number of characters, events, and pictures. However, comparing narrative abilities between the two languages of a bilingual has been extensively examined in the field (Altman et al. 2016;Gagarina 2012;Govindarajan and Paradis 2019;Hao et al. 2019;Iluz-Cohen and Walters 2012;Kapalková et al. 2016;Kunnari, Välimaa, and Laukkanen-Nevala 2016;Lucero 2015;Méndez et al. 2018;Roch, Florit, and Levorato 2016;Rodina 2017;Squires et al. 2014;Uccelli and Páez 2007) and thus is not the main purpose of our study. Conversely, we were interested in investigating which factors modulate the changes in L1 and L2 narrative abilities in a rare(ly studied) circumstance in which the dominance of the language reverses due to shifts in the environment. ...
... We coded the macrostructure elements by adapting the rubrics established by Squires et al. (2014) for the Frog on his own story and by Hao et al. (2019) setting, initiating event, internal response, plan, action, and consequence. Each element scored on a scale from 0 to 3, yielding a total macrostructure score of 21. ...
... Additionally, children who lived longer in the L2 dominant environment better improved their fluency over time as indicated by the interaction between Round and Length of Residence (LoR). Indeed, LoR has been found to be associated with narrative abilities in bilingual children (Govindarajan and Paradis 2019;Hao et al. 2019). Taken together, the findings indicate that children who had less proficiency and limited length of exposure in Japanese seem to take advantage of the re-exposure effects in the L1/HL and eventually perform comparably to their counterparts after a year of re-immersion in the native language environment. ...
... Many studies report no differences in macrostructure measures between the two languages of bilingual children (Pearson, 2002;Squires et al., 2014;Bohmacker, 2016;Gagarina et al., 2016;Kunnari et al., 2016;Bonifacci et al., 2018;Méndez et al., 2018), especially for older school-aged children (Pesco and Bird, 2016). More recently, however, Hao et al. (2019) found that Mandarin-English bilingual preschool to school-aged children in the US performed better on "setting" in English than in Mandarin. This Frontiers in Psychology 03 ...
... For example, Spanish-English-speaking 4-6-year-olds showed a strong association among microstructure elements within the same language, but more variation across languages, suggesting that these children are acquiring linguistic structures independently across the two languages (Méndez et al., 2018). On the other hand, in Hao et al. (2019) sample, while microstructure domains of "nominal" and "phrase" showed no significant differences between Mandarin and English, both "modifier" and "verb" were significantly better in English than in Mandarin. The pattern of performance on the various domains also differed within each language. ...
... Govindarajan and Paradis (2019) found in school-aged children that length of English exposure in school predicted better English narrative skills, but amount of English input (from non-native speakers) and use at home did not predict macrostructure or microstructure abilities in English. Similarly, Hao et al. (2019) found that neither English input or output (production) correlated with performance on English macrostructure or microstructure narrative skills. Given the large age range in their study (4 to 9 years), and the lack of research on bilingual preschoolers' narrative skills, it is unclear whether these findings would specifically apply to preschoolers. ...
Full-text available
This study examined the spoken narrative skills of a group of bilingual Mandarin-English speaking 3-6-year-olds (N = 25) in Australia, using a remote online story-retell task. Bilingual preschoolers are an understudied population, especially those who are speaking typologically distinct languages such as Mandarin and English which have fewer structural overlaps compared to language pairs that are typologically closer, reducing cross-linguistic positive transfer. We examined these preschoolers' spoken narrative skills as measured by macrostructures (the global organization of a story) and microstructures (linguistic structures, e.g., total number of utterances, nouns, verbs, phrases, and modifiers) across and within each language, and how various factors such as age and language experiences contribute to individual variability. The results indicate that our bilingual preschoolers acquired spoken narrative skills similarly across their two languages, i.e., showing similar patterns of productivity for macrostructure and microstructure elements in both of their two languages. While chronological age was positively correlated with macrostructures in both languages (showing developmental effects), there were no significant correlations between measures of language experiences and the measures of spoken narrative skills (no effects for language input/output). The findings suggest that although these preschoolers acquire two typologically diverse languages in different learning environments, Mandarin at home with highly educated parents, and English at preschool, they displayed similar levels of oral narrative skills as far as these macro−/micro-structure measures are concerned. This study provides further evidence for the feasibility of remote online assessment of preschoolers' narrative skills.
... We were not able to directly compare the narrative abilities of the L1 to the L2, since we used different wordless picture book for each language which involve different number of characters, events, and pictures. However, comparing narrative abilities between the two languages of a bilingual has been extensively examined in the field (Altman et al. 2016;Gagarina 2012;Govindarajan and Paradis 2019;Hao et al. 2019;Iluz-Cohen and Walters 2012;Kapalková et al. 2016;Kunnari, Välimaa, and Laukkanen-Nevala 2016;Lucero 2015;Méndez et al. 2018;Roch, Florit, and Levorato 2016;Rodina 2017;Squires et al. 2014;Uccelli and Páez 2007) and thus is not the main purpose of our study. Conversely, we were interested in investigating which factors modulate the changes in L1 and L2 narrative abilities in a rare(ly studied) circumstance in which the dominance of the language reverses due to shifts in the environment. ...
... We coded the macrostructure elements by adapting the rubrics established by Squires et al. (2014) for the Frog on his own story and by Hao et al. (2019) setting, initiating event, internal response, plan, action, and consequence. Each element scored on a scale from 0 to 3, yielding a total macrostructure score of 21. ...
... Additionally, children who lived longer in the L2 dominant environment better improved their fluency over time as indicated by the interaction between Round and Length of Residence (LoR). Indeed, LoR has been found to be associated with narrative abilities in bilingual children (Govindarajan and Paradis 2019;Hao et al. 2019). Taken together, the findings indicate that children who had less proficiency and limited length of exposure in Japanese seem to take advantage of the re-exposure effects in the L1/HL and eventually perform comparably to their counterparts after a year of re-immersion in the native language environment. ...
Full-text available
This longitudinal study examined the development of narrative micro- and macrostructure in Japanese-English bilingual returnee children. Returnees are children of immigrant families who move to a foreign country, spending a significant portion of their formative developmental years in the foreign majority language context before returning to their native language environment. The returnees did a narrative task in both their L1 (Japanese) and L2 (English) immediately upon their return to their native language environment and a year after.The results showed no aggregate significant changes in L1 or L2 micro- and macrostructure over time. However, at the individual level, the degree of maintenance of L2 microstructure was modulated by L2 exposure. That is, children who continued to receive L2 exposure better maintained their English microstructure (i.e., Type-Token Ratio and Verbs per Utterance)despite being re-immersed in the L1 environment. In terms of their Japanese, the age of return to the L1 environment and relative proficiency predicted the development of their Japanese microstructure (i.e., MLU, Fluency, Type-Token Ratio) and macrostructure. Our study is the first to track both languages of bilingual returnee children over time, revealing that different background variables affect the change in returnee children’s L1 and L2 narrative abilities.
... Even though the participants in the current study started out as having Farsi as the dominant language on the basis of their total language use in the parental questionnaire, dominance appeared to shift such that as a group, the participants now seem to be English dominant based on the language richness score in the parental questionnaire as well as expressive vocabulary. The literature looking at language dominance and proficiency with respect to narrative microstructure has shown that the LITMUS-MAIN generally finds in favor of the ML (Hipfner-Boucher et al., 2015;Altman et al., 2016;Bohnacker, 2016;Kapalkova et al., 2016;Roch et al., 2016;Méndez et al., 2018;Hao et al., 2019). The findings of the present study reiterate those found in the literature such that the participants were found to be more proficient and dominant in the ML (English) than the HL (Farsi). ...
... Therefore, if we want children to develop both languages adequately, it is important to provide sufficient input and exposure to both languages because vocabulary and morphosyntactic skills will not transfer from one language to the other. The literature has shown that children are required to reach a threshold level of vocabulary to be able to produce appropriate story narratives (Pearson, 2002;Uccelli and Paez, 2007;Karlsen et al., 2016;Méndez et al., 2018;Hao et al., 2019). The current study reiterates the previous findings that vocabulary correlates with narrative microstructure within each language. ...
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This paper aims to identify effective means of measuring dominance and proficiency in bilingual children. Thirty-seven Farsi-English Heritage language speaking children from 6;1 to 11;6 were assessed on their vocabulary, morphosyntax, and narrative microstructure skills in both languages to address whether there is a difference between their proficiency in Farsi as a heritage and English as a majority language, how the scores on the vocabulary, morphosyntax, and narrative microstructure tasks relate to one another, and based on the results of each task in both languages if any of the children are at risk for a Developmental Language Disorder. Vocabulary was assessed using the LITMUS- Cross-Linguistic Lexical Task (CLT), morphosyntax using the LITMUS-Sentence Repetition (SR) tasks, and Narrative microstructure using the LITMUS-Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (MAIN). Individual language proficiency was identified via an in-depth profile analysis for each participant who looked at their performance on all experimental tasks in both languages. The data demonstrated that on the vocabulary and narrative tasks the participants were more dominant in English than in Farsi, while on the sentence repetition task there were no significant differences between the two languages. Correlation analyses showed that vocabulary scores were strongly correlated to the sentence repetition scores and the microstructure scores. The English and Farsi sentence repetition scores also correlated moderately with the microstructure scores within each language. Profile analysis showed that no child within the study scored < 1.5 or 2 standard deviations below the mean on more than two tasks in both languages. However, interesting patterns emerged indicating that some participants had a greater proficiency in one language vs. the other language. The results from this study showed that measuring language within a single domain (e.g., morphosyntax) is not enough to identify a bilingual child's language dominance and/or proficiency. Instead, an in-depth profile analysis and language assessments across various language domains need to be done in order to appropriately measure language dominance and proficiency. Consequently, this study supports the importance of measuring language across multiple domains in studies of bilingual children. The clinical significance of appropriately identifying language dominance and proficiency was also shown, as such information would allow clinicians to make more appropriate clinical decisions.
... The assessment of bilingual narrative abilities was unique in this study, as we allowed children to flexibly use both their languages throughout the narrative task to ensure ecological validity, whereas most bilingual narrative assessments require the child to narrate exclusively in one language and then in the other (e.g., Bohnacker, 2016;Hao et al., 2019;Swasey Washington & Iglesias, 2015). When children are allowed to translanguage freely while narrating, the child can use the language with which they are most comfortable for a given word or phrase, utilizing their full linguistic repertoire (Beatty-Martínez et al., 2020;Raichlin et al., 2019). ...
Purpose: In light of the importance of preschool oral narrative skills as precursors to literacy, this exploratory study examined expressive language skills among emergent bilingual Latine preschoolers using a naturalistic personal narrative task. To understand the factors that support language use in the personal narrative context for this population, we examined the contribution of children's executive function (EF) skills to their narrative language abilities. Method: Children completed two subtests from the Preschool Self-Regulation Assessment to measure EF and produced two personal narratives in response to conversational prompts. A series of linear regressions were used to evaluate the relation between children's EF skills and their narrative production ability, narrative organization, and expressive language skills derived from automated analyses of narrative samples. Results: EF was found to predict children's ability to produce a personal narrative but not the language skills children demonstrated in these narratives. Conclusions: The current findings suggest that EF is implicated in emergent bilingual Latine children's narrative abilities. At the preschool age, the contribution of EF to narrative language production is apparent in the global task of producing a narrative, rather than in the organizational or linguistic features of the narrative. As such, supporting both EF and narrative skills might be an important means of facilitating preliteracy among bilingual children.
... As DLLs gain more exposure to English in school, they develop greater competency in structuring and organizing their oral stories in English (e.g., Bitetti & Hammer, 2021;Lucero, 2018). In terms of sentence-level oral narrative skills, DLLs can show similar competency in English and their heritage language in the first years of elementary school (e.g., Lucero, 2018) or greater microstructural competency in English than their heritage language (e.g., Hao et al., 2019), depending on their language exposure in English. It does not appear, however, that teachers are distinguishing between children's global organizational and sentence-level oral narrative skills or between children's skill level in their heritage language compared to their English language storytelling, thus potentially overlooking children's oral narrative competencies. ...
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A burgeoning body of research shows that children who have stronger oral narrative, or storytelling, skills become better readers and writers later on, suggesting that these complex discourse skills play a pivotal role in literacy acquisition. There is evidence, however, that teachers rarely, if ever, implement oral narrative instruction. Understanding teachers’ beliefs about children’s oral narrative skills and the instructional practices they perceive as supporting oral narrative development is crucial for informing efforts to promote the development of these foundational oral language skills. This study used qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with 11 elementary school teachers to examine the significance that teachers attribute to children’s oral narrative skills, the factors they perceive as contributing to oral narrative development, and the practices they report using to support children’s development as storytellers. Results showed that teachers believed that oral narratives matter for children’s social-emotional functioning and literacy achievement and placed responsibility for children’s oral narrative development on the quality of home language and literacy experiences that children have with their families. Teachers reported using instructional practices that were primarily unplanned or aimed at accomplishing other goals, such as assessing children’s reading comprehension. Implications for future research, teacher preparation, and professional learning opportunities for teachers are discussed.
... Mandarin Chinese is a global language with large numbers of speakers in China, parts of Asia, and several English-speaking countries (Hao et al., 2019;Rezzonico et al., 2016;Teoh et al., 2017). Given a 7% prevalence rate of DLD in children (Tomblin et al., 1997) and the belief that DLD is equally prevalent across languages and cultures (Armon-Lotem et al., 2015), 5 million 4-to 9-year-old children in China are estimated to have DLD (National Statistics Bureau of China, 2010). ...
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We compared the narrative production in Mandarin-speaking children at risk (AR) for developmental language disorder (DLD) and typically developing (TD) controls to address two goals: (a) further our understanding of the Mandarin DLD phenotype and (b) examine the role of elicitation method in differentiating AR from TD. We found that grammaticality and productivity were relatively preserved but the story macrostructure, lexical diversity, and sentence complexity were vulnerable in Mandarin-speaking children with or AR for DLD.
... Moreover, the pre-COVID sample was clearly English-dominant in both modalities, whereas the COVID sample was balanced in comprehension and Mandarin-dominant in the production modality. The pre-COVID patterns replicated previous studies of United States Mandarin-English bilingual children from middle-class background (Sheng et al., 2011Hao et al., 2019). Taken together, these findings suggest a home language boost in both comprehension and production, accompanied by relatively preserved English comprehension and production skills in the COVID group. ...
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Usage-based accounts of language acquisition suggest that bilingual language proficiency is dynamic and susceptible to changes in language use. The COVID-19 pandemic led to unprecedented modifications in the language learning environment of developing bilinguals. Drawing on this unique opportunity, we analyzed existing data of two matched groups of Mandarin-English bilingual children (ages 4 to 8 years, n = 38), one tested before (pre-COVID group) and the other during (COVID group) the pandemic. The dataset comprises responses to a language environment questionnaire, and scores on a sentence comprehension task and a sentence recall task in the bilinguals’ two languages. Questionnaire data revealed a richer Mandarin language environment for children in the COVID group compared to peers in the pre-COVID group. On both comprehension and production tasks, the two groups performed comparably in English but the COVID group showed better performance in Mandarin than the pre-COVID group. Within the pre-COVID group, English was stronger than Mandarin in both comprehension and production. Within the COVID group, the two languages were balanced in comprehension and Mandarin was stronger than English in production. Moreover, language use variables were correlated with production performance in both languages. These patterns illustrate the intimate relationships between language use and bilingual language proficiency through the lens of COVID-19 induced language environment modification.
Purpose Bilingual development has been shown to be highly dependent on language-specific exposure. This study extended the study of bilingual development to adolescence and to the production of complex syntax in two contexts: conversation and expository discourse. Method English–French bilinguals (EFbil; n = 27) and French L1 speakers ( n = 14) aged 12 to 17 years produced French and English conversational and expository samples. Measures of mean length of T-units and clausal density were used, as well as a measure of detailed subordinate clause diversity developed in this study. Results Both groups produced more complex syntax in expository discourse compared to conversation and performed very similarly overall. Significant group differences were found in French subordinate clause diversity but not in sentence length or clause density. For EFbil, differences between languages were unexpectedly greater in conversation. Previous language exposure impacted both languages of the EFbil and in both contexts. Conclusions This study is the first to report on the spontaneous syntactic use of bilingual adolescents in both their languages. Subtle but significant differences were found in the syntactic skills of the two groups. Expository and conversational contexts each provided unique information on aspects of complex syntactic development, calling into question the idea that the ability to produce a more complex context guarantees conversational abilities. Finally, for the EFbil, previous language exposure impacted both languages, particularly in conversation. Supplemental Material
Purpose: There is a shortage of bilingual speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in the United States. For Vietnamese, less than 1% of SLPs speak the language compared with a Vietnamese American population of > 2.1 million. This study examines the feasibility and social validity of remote child language assessment with the help of a caregiver to address the need for first language assessments among Vietnamese-speaking children. Method: Twenty-one dyads of caregivers and typically developing children (aged 3-6 years) completed two assessment sessions in their first language, Vietnamese, using Zoom videoconferencing. Sessions were counterbalanced between two conditions in which either the clinician or the caregiver was the task administrator. Children's language samples were elicited using narrative tasks. Social validity was also assessed through caregiver and child questionnaires at the end of each session. Results: There were no significant differences between conditions on language sample measures nor the measures of social validity. Both caregivers and their children felt positively about the sessions. The caregivers' feelings were related to their perception of children's feelings about the sessions. Children's feelings were related to their Vietnamese language proficiency, caregiver-reported language ability, and whether they were born outside of the United States. Conclusions: Findings build the evidence base for telepractice as an effective and socially valid service delivery model for bilingual children in the United States. This study supports the potential for caregivers as task administrators in a telepractice setting, making assessment in a child's first language more feasible and accessible. Future investigation is needed to extend results to bilingual populations with disorders.
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Purpose: With no existing gold standard for comparison, challenges arise for establishing the validity of a new standardized Mandarin language assessment normed in mainland China. Method: A new assessment, Diagnostic Receptive and Expressive Assessment of Mandarin (DREAM), was normed with a stratified sample of 969 children ages 2;6 (years;months) to 7;11 in multiple urban and nonurban regions in northern and southern China. In this study of 230 children, the sensitivity and specificity of DREAM were examined against an a priori judgment of disorders. External validity was assessed using 2 indices of language production for different age groups. Results: External validity was assessed against spontaneous language indices (correlation range: r = .6-.7; all ps < .01) and narrative indices (overall: r = .45, p < .01). Sensitivity (.73) and specificity (.82) of DREAM are moderate to good using a priori judgment as the standard. The values improved to .95 and .82 when spontaneous language and narratives were added to a priori judgment to define typicality. Divergent validity was moderate with nonlinguistic indices. Conclusion: DREAM holds promise as a diagnostic test of Mandarin language impairment for children aged 2;6 to 7;11.
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The purpose of this study was to assess the basic psychometric properties of a progress-monitoring tool designed to measure narrative discourse skills in school-age children with language impairments (LI). A sample of 109 children with LI between the ages of 5 years 7 months and 9 years 9 months completed the Test of Narrative Language (TNL). The stories told in response to the alien picture prompt were transcribed and scored according to the TNL manual criteria and the criteria established for scoring the progress-monitoring tool, Monitoring Indicators of Scholarly Language (MISL). The MISL total score demonstrated acceptable levels of internal consistency reliability, inter-rater reliability, and construct validity for use as a progress-monitoring tool for specific aspects of narrative proficiency. The MISL holds promise as a tool for tracking growth in narrative language proficiency that may be taught as part of an intervention program to support the Common Core Standards related to literacy.
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Purpose: The aim of this study was to compare narratives generated by 4-year-old and 5-year-old children who were bilingual in English and Cantonese. Method: The sample included 47 children (23 who were 4 years old and 24 who were 5 years old) living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who spoke both Cantonese and English. The participants spoke and heard predominantly Cantonese in the home. Participants generated a story in English and Cantonese by using a wordless picture book; language order was counterbalanced. Data were transcribed and coded for story grammar, morphosyntactic quality, mean length of utterance in words, and the number of different words. Results: Repeated measures analysis of variance revealed higher story grammar scores in English than in Cantonese, but no other significant main effects of language were observed. Analyses also revealed that older children had higher story grammar, mean length of utterance in words, and morphosyntactic quality scores than younger children in both languages. Hierarchical regressions indicated that Cantonese story grammar predicted English story grammar and Cantonese microstructure predicted English microstructure. However, no correlation was observed between Cantonese and English morphosyntactic quality. Conclusions: The results of this study have implications for speech-language pathologists who collect narratives in Cantonese and English from bilingual preschoolers. The results suggest that there is a possible transfer in narrative abilities between the two languages.
Primary Test of Nonverbal Intelligence - Primary Nonverbally formatted test of conceptual reasoning for young children.
The common approach to the multiplicity problem calls for controlling the familywise error rate (FWER). This approach, though, has faults, and we point out a few. A different approach to problems of multiple significance testing is presented. It calls for controlling the expected proportion of falsely rejected hypotheses — the false discovery rate. This error rate is equivalent to the FWER when all hypotheses are true but is smaller otherwise. Therefore, in problems where the control of the false discovery rate rather than that of the FWER is desired, there is potential for a gain in power. A simple sequential Bonferronitype procedure is proved to control the false discovery rate for independent test statistics, and a simulation study shows that the gain in power is substantial. The use of the new procedure and the appropriateness of the criterion are illustrated with examples.
This study investigates the narrative skill of school-aged children with language impairment in Taiwan. Twelve children, 6 children with language impairment (LI) and 6 children with typical language development (TLD), aged from 8;0 to 9;5 participated in this study. They were asked to tell three personally experienced stories and the longest one was selected and coded along four dimensions, i.e., narrative structure, conjunction, referential strategies, and discourse context. The revision of the Chinese Narrative Assessment Profile (NAP) was also used to score children’s narrative performance. Results show that the children with LI had more difficulties in producing clear, coherent narratives. In comparison with the stories narrated by children with TLD, the stories produced by children with LI exhibited fewer narrative components, evaluation devices, and connectives, but more ambiguous referencing information was evident in their narratives. The narrative profile of each child with LI, however, varied. Limitations of this study and suggestions for further research on narrative skill in children with LI were provided.
“Specific language impairment” (SLI) is a term applied to children who show significant deficits in language learning ability but age-appropriate scores on non-verbal tests of intelligence, normal hearing, and no clear evidence of neurological impairment. Children who meet this definition are not identical in their characteristics, though some linguistic profiles are rather common. Boys outnumber girls, with a ratio of approximately 2.8 to 1 (Robinson, 1987). At age five years, the prevalence of SLI might be as high as 7% (Tomblin, 1996). This percentage is probably lower at older ages, due to the fact that some proportion of children with milder language difficulties achieve normal levels of ability within a few years, often with the help of intervention.
Background Understanding and expressing a narrative's macro-structure is relatively independent of experience in a specific language. A narrative task is therefore assumed to be a less biased method of language assessment for bilingual children than many other norm-referenced tests and may thus be particularly valuable to identify language impairment (LI) in a bilingual context. AimsThe present study aimed to investigate the effects of LI and bilingualism on macrostructural narrative skills. Moreover, it evaluated the diagnostic validity of a narrative task within a monolingual and bilingual sample. Methods & ProceduresFive- and 6-year-old mono- and bilingual children with and without LI (N = 33 per group) were tested on production and comprehension measures of narrative macro-structure. A multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) was used to investigate the effects of LI and bilingualism on their narrative abilities. Binary logistic regressions were conducted to evaluate the instrument's diagnostic value. Outcomes & ResultsNegative effects of LI were found on all narrative measures, whereas no effects of bilingualism emerged. The narrative task adequately differentiated between both mono- and bilingual children with and without LI, with story elements related to internal states being more effective than elements related to the basic episode structure. Conclusions & ImplicationsThis study confirms the hypothesis that measures of narrative macro-structure are not biased against children who have less experience with a particular language, like bilinguals. In addition, it indicates that using narratives to assess children's language abilities can support the identification of LI in both a monolingual and a bilingual context.