Language impairment or typical language development? Developing methods for linguistic assessment of bilingual children in Sweden

Time period: 2014-01-01 to 2018-12-31

Project leader: Ute Bohnacker

Other personnel: Margareta Jennische, Eva-Kristina Salameh

Funder: Swedish Research Council

Type of award: Project grant

Total fundning: 9 000 000 SEK

Many children in Sweden grow up in a multilingual setting. Some of these children are slow in their language development and are referred to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for assessment and intervention. The SLP?s task is to decide whether slowness is due to language impairment (LI) or reflects typical language development in a multilingual setting. This assessment is vital for the child?s future, as untreated LI often leads to dyslexia and learning difficulties in school. LI implies that the child?s language development is much slower compared to non-verbal intelligence, motor skills and socio-emotional abilities. Bilinguals with LI display deficits in both languages, so both languages must be assessed, yet the tools available today are inappropriate for bilinguals as they are based on results from monolingual Swedish children. This five-year project aims to develop methods for the assessment of bilingual children for reliable diagnosis in both languages. Arabic and Turkish are in focus, as these languages are well represented in Sweden and belong to two different language groups. Linguists and SLPs collaborate in studying the core linguistic features of typically developing bilingual children at age 4-7, with a focus on narratives. These data are then compared to samples from children with alleged LI, in order to identify clinical markers of LI in Arabic, Turkish and Swedish. The research group closely cooperates with the EU COST Action on bilingualism and LI.