Telling stories in two languages: Narratives of bilingual preschool children with typical and impaired language

Peri Iluz-Cohen, Joel Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Two studies investigated five-and six-year-old preschool children's narrative production in an attempt to show how LI may impinge on narrative production in measurable ways. Study 1 analyzed renderings of familiar stories for group (typical language development vs. language impairment), story content (Jungle Book/Goldilocks) and language (English/Hebrew) differences on a range of discourse (story grammar categories), lexical (e.g., words, word types), morphosyntactic (e.g., verb inflections, prepositions) and bilingual (code-switching) measures. It showed intact performance for narrative structure in both groups and in both languages despite differences in lexis, morphosyntax and bilingualism. Study 2 pursued bilingual code-switching as a means to examine differences between children with typical language development (TLD) and language impairment (LI) in a retelling task where each child retold three stories (from native language/L1, second language/L2 and bilingual contexts) to interlocutors with different language preferences. Both groups showed sociolinguistic sensitivity in code-switching behavior, but frequency and directionality of code-switching revealed group differences. The article argues for the use of a range of indicators of LI including those unique to bilingual children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-74
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
* The authors would like to thank Sharon Armon-Lotem, editor of this special issue, three anonymous reviewers, and the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 938) for its support.


  • bilingual preschool children
  • code-switching
  • language impairment
  • narrative abilities


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