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.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZDC1-SRB-Y (53))
Program Officer
Cooper, Judith
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
St. John's University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Jacobson, Peggy F; Walden, Patrick R (2013) Lexical diversity and omission errors as predictors of language ability in the narratives of sequential Spanish-English bilinguals: a cross-language comparison. Am J Speech Lang Pathol 22:554-65
Jacobson, Peggy; Livert, David (2010) English past tense use as a clinical marker in older bilingual children with language impairment. Clin Linguist Phon 24:101-21
Jacobson, Peggy F; Cairns, Helen S (2008) Considering linguistic input in a bilingual situation: implications for acquisition. Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch 39:352-64
Jacobson, Peggy F; Schwartz, Richard G (2005) English past tense use in bilingual children with language impairment. Am J Speech Lang Pathol 14:313-23