Text organization in typically developing bilinguals and bilinguals at risk of DLD: what is different and how language independent is it?

Abstract

This study investigates narrative text organization, i.e. well-formedness and coherence of macrostructure in Russian-German sequential bilingual children. Specifically, it compares macrostructure in Russian and German of two groups of children and examines correlations between macrostructure and language proficiency. A total of 74 oral narrative texts in German and Russian were elicited via telling and retelling from 23 children. These children were selected from a larger sample of preschool bilinguals and were divided into two groups: 16 typically developing (TD) children and seven children identified as at risk of a developmental language disorder (DLD) based on their combined language proficiency score in both languages. Both groups were matched by age and nonverbal IQ. Macrostructure of narratives was defined by a multi-dimensional model of text organization and operationalized in terms of the presence of components of story structure and story complexity, as well as the use of forms referring to internal states. In addition, microstructure (i.e. types and tokens) was compared across the TD- and DLD-children and correlated with the composite score of language proficiency. Significant differences between the two groups were found in the organization of narrative texts as well as types and tokens, confirming previous findings on bilingual DLD. No correlation between story complexity and the composite score of language proficiency was found, suggesting its languageindependent nature. The study discusses the notion of narrative coherence in terms of macrostructure and its components and proposes a set of assessment tasks for the identification of bilinguals at risk of DLD.

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