According to the recent U. S. Census, 17.9% of individuals over the age of 5 speak a language other than English, and 7% of these individuals are Spanish speakers learning English as a second language with specific language impairment (SSESL-SLI). Although morphological deficits are a universal characteristic of SLI, the specific morphemes affected vary according to language structure. The proposed cross-sectional study offers a unique opportunity to examine current theoretical applications of SLI in second language learning. One account, the prosodic / surface account, assumes that children with SLI have difficulty detecting morphemes of low phonetic substance occurring in unstressed syllables of shorter duration. A competing account attributes the morphological difficulties of children with SLI to grammatical limitations (e.g., tense marking, number and gender agreement) stemming from deficits in the underlying grammars, suggesting that children with SLI have difficulty in acquiring implicit grammatical rules. By examining Spanish and English morphology at differing stages, we gain insight into typical L2 development and address theoretical issues relevant to children with SLI. To achieve these goals, we propose to examine those aspects of grammatical morphology that are known to be deficient in monolingual English speakers and monolingual Spanish speakers with SLI. To further our understanding of SLI in second language learners, Spanish speakers with normal language (SSESL-NL) and hose with SLI (SSESL-SLI) will be tested in both languages. The specific objectives are as follows: 1) To examine English and Spanish past tense morphology in SSESL-NL and SSESL-SLI children. 2) To examine the use of English and Spanish direct object pronouns in SSESL-NL and SSESL-SLI children. 3) To examine regularity and overregularization in SSESL-NL and SSESL-SLI children. 4) To compare bilingual outcomes for groups of typical and atypical language learners. 5) To examine SLI within existing accounts of second language learning.
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