Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Rhonda Oliver

Second Advisor

Dr. Graham McKay

Third Advisor

Dr. Danielle Brady


Bilingual children with specific language impairment (SLI) from non English speaking background (NESB) present a major diagnostic problem to speech pathologist and educationist in an English speaking country. There has been no known study on the simultaneous narrative development involving bilingual Chinese children with and without SLI. This longitudinal case study examined the relationship of Chinese (L1) and English (L2) in narrative development in a child with no language difficulty (Child LN) and a child (Child L1) diagnosed as having SLI. The hypothesis posed for this study was that Child L1 has the same developmental profile for narrative skill in L1 and L2 as Child LN, but at a slower rate of progression and there was no within subject difference in the narrative development between L1 and L2. The narrative characteristics of L1 and L2 of these two children were studied over a twelve months period between the age of six and half and seven and half years. A total often recordings of the children's retelling and generation of stories in both L1 and L2 were made, using various bilingual and text less children's books and pictures. The narratives were analysed with regard to their form and content. The narrative form was measured by T-unit/utterance ratio, the cohesive score and the number of complete episodes. The narrative content was analysed according to the total number of story grammar components (measuring content amount), the types and frequency of grammar components, and the developmental staging (measuring narrative maturity). For each child, the narrative characteristics of L1 and L2, with regard to the indices studied, were closely linked. Both children showed a similar developmental pattern in their narrative production, and parallel progression with age in the narrative production of coherence score, total grammar components, and number of complete episodes. However, Child L1 generally performed at the lower level than Child LN in both his Chinese and English languages for T-unit/utterance ratio, developmental staging, coherence, and number of complete episodes The study also confirmed the past findings of the important influence of age, topic and communicative context on the production of narratives of young children. Whilst Child LN was developing culture related narrative characteristic in the way of using different constituents for his grammar components, Child Ll was yet to do so. The frequent sequence of "initial event", "attempt" and "consequence" was found in Child LN's Chinese narratives, indicating the "cause-effect" discourse pattern of Chinese culture. This was in contrast to his English narratives where "setting" was found to be more frequent than "consequence". No difference in the frequency of common grammar components between L1 and L2 of Child L1 's narratives was found. They were "attempt", "initiating event" and "internal response". The preponderance of "internal response" in Child LI's narrative was in contrast to past studies on children with SLI. The outcome of this study indicates that the indices used in this study may be culturally relevant for analysing the narrative structure of bilingual Chinese children. The results indicated that simultaneous analysis of L1 and L2 narratives of these children may help to differentiate SLI from ESL (English as second language). In this respect, gaining access into L1 data through linguistically competent transcriber may be crucial to accurately identify narrative difficulties of children from non English background. This study, although descriptive in nature with only a single representative case, raised a number of questions that need to be addressed in future research. They will be discussed in the thesis. Further research to see if the same characteristics could be isolated among most bilingual Chinese children is necessary for cross-cultural study of children with SLI.