Journal of Child Language

Articles

Second-first language acquisition: analysis of expressive language skills in a sample of girls adopted from China

TONY XING TANa1 c1, TROY LOKERa1, ROBERT F. DEDRICKa1 and KOFI MARFOa1

a1 University of South Florida

ABSTRACT

In this study we investigated adopted Chinese girls' expressive English language outcomes in relation to their age at adoption, chronological age, length of exposure to English and developmental risk status at the time of adoption. Vocabulary and phrase utterance data on 318 girls were collected from the adoptive mothers using the Language Development Survey (LDS) (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2000). The girls, aged 18–35 months (M=26·2 months, SD=4·9 months), were adopted at ages ranging from 6·8 to 24 months (M=12·6 months, SD=3·1 months), and had been exposed to English for periods ranging from 1·6 to 27·6 months (M=13·7, SD=5·7). Findings suggest that vocabulary and mean length of phrase scores were negatively correlated with age at adoption but positively correlated with chronological age and length of exposure to English. Developmental risk status at the time of adoption was not correlated with language outcomes. The gap between their expressive language and that of same-age girls from the US normative sample was wider for children aged 18–23 months but was closed for children aged 30–35 months. About 16% of the children met the LDS criteria for delays in vocabulary and 17% met the LDS criteria for delays in mean length of phrase. Speech/language interventions were received by 33·3% of the children with delays in vocabulary and 25% with delays in phrase.

(Received August 13 2008)

(Revised December 14 2009)

(Accepted February 07 2011)

(Online publication July 25 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Tony Xing Tan, University of South Florida – Psychological and Social Foundations, EDU162 4202 E. Fowler Ave, Tampa Florida 33620, United States. e-mail: tan@coedu.usf.edu