Semantic convergence in Spanish-English bilingual children with primary language impairment

Li Sheng, Lisa M. Bedore, Elizabeth D. Penã, Casey Taliancich-Klinger

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: To examine the degree of convergence in word association responses produced by bilingual children with primary language impairment (PLI) in relation to bilingual age peers. Method: Thirty-seven Spanish-English bilingual children with PLI, 37 typically developing (TD) controls, and a normative sample of 112 children produced associations to 24 English and Spanish words. The 5 most frequent responses for each stimulus were identified for the normative sample; then the frequency of occurrence of these frequent normative responses was tabulated and compared between the PLI and TD groups. Results: Children with PLI generated fewer frequent normative responses than their TD peers. Spearman rank correlations revealed that the rank frequency of responses in the normative group was significantly correlated with that of the TD and PLI groups; however, in English, the correlation was stronger for the TD cohort. Cross-language associations were also revealed in the generation of frequent norming responses. Conclusions: Semantic convergence is determined by multiple factors. Reduced production of frequent normative responses and weakened correlation with group association behavior in English suggest that children with PLI were delayed in converging on a central core of semantic knowledge that is characteristic of bilingual children with typical language skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)766-777
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Language impairment
  • Semantic convergence
  • Word association

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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