Measuring English Narrative Microstructure in Preschool Dual Language Learners

Elizabeth A. Runnion, Melissa Pierce, Maria Adelaida Restrepo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE: The purpose of the study was to examine the change in specific English microstructure features according to language ability in preschool Spanish-English dual language learners. METHOD: We collected English narratives from 22 Spanish-English dual language learners with typical language development (TD) and 22 Spanish-English dual language learners with developmental language disorder (DLD) at the beginning and end of their first year in Head Start. Children came from Spanish-speaking homes and were exposed to English and Spanish in their preschool classrooms. We analyzed children's use of English microstructure across time using the Narrative Assessment Protocol. RESULTS: Both groups showed improvement in overall English microstructure use, although children with TD made greater gains than children with DLD. Phrase structure (noun phrases, coordinating conjunctions, and prepositional phrases) increased in both groups, but more so in children with TD than with DLD. Sentence structure (compound, complex, negative, and interrogative sentences) increased in both groups. Verb use, noun use (Tier 2 nouns and nouns marked with plural and possessive endings), and modifiers (adverbs and adjectives) neither changed across time nor differed between groups. CONCLUSIONS: Spanish-English dual language learners who attend Head Start and come from Spanish-speaking homes, regardless of language ability, may not readily acquire verbs, nouns, and modifiers during their first year of formal English exposure, suggesting that they would benefit from explicit instruction in these areas. Preschool Spanish-English dual language learners with DLD may make less progress than their peers with TD in phrase structure use, indicating that explicit instruction in this microstructure feature may be beneficial for children with DLD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-541
Number of pages10
JournalLanguage, speech, and hearing services in schools
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 11 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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