JCPSLP Vol 18 No. 1Mar 2016

in the EL1 participants, who also acquired inflectional marking of plurals late in comparison to monolingual speakers of StdE. Use of a quantifier is a feature of plural marking in SCE in adult speakers of SCE (Deterding & Poedjosoedarmo, 2001). Conclusions and implications Language dominance impacts the development of language/s and is an important consideration for clinicians working with multilingual children. Bilingual language development in English is not the same as monolingual language development in English, and is highly variable between individuals. There are clear indications of language dominance influencing the English spoken by the ML1 children in this study, indicating that analysis of assessment data must occur within the context of the languages the child speaks. For bilingual populations, assessment of expressive language abilities must account for differences in the acquisition and age of emergence of morphological features, otherwise assessment results will be of little value in determining whether language impairment exists. Clinicians working with bilingual and multilingual clients need to obtain accurate data on language use and dominance, considering changing patterns of exposure to and use of language/s over time and in different contexts. Bilingual populations are heterogeneous, so each child’s exposure and use of their languages needs to be considered carefully to facilitate accurate diagnosis and intervention planning. The characteristics of the individual child’s languages need to be considered, as well as the possible influence of those languages on the English used. Limitations and future directions A major strength of this study is the number of children involved. However, it was a “snapshot”, cross-sectional study which was not able to reflect the individual pathways in development of English for the participants. General patterns in noun plural marking in English across language groups and between age groups can be reported on, but it is not possible to look at the development of skills over time. Another limitation of this study was the absence of a validated measure of language dominance. For more detailed investigation of the impact of language dominance on children’s expressive language output, assignment to different language groups should ideally be determined through utilising a validated, reliable measure of determining language dominance. Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank the children and kindergartens who participated in this study. Declaration of interest The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper. References Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2012). 2011 Census shows Asian languages on the rise in Australian households. [Online]. Retrieved 31 July 2013 from au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/CO-60 Bedore, L. M. & Peña, E. D. (2008) Assessment of bilingual children for identification of language impairment: Current findings and implications for practice. International Journal of Bilingual Education & Bilingualism, 11(1), 1–29.

in the home compared to those who speak Mandarin in the home). This illustrates how in a multilingual context where the educational language is English, there are differences in grammatical marking even with forms that typically emerge early in a StdE context. Thus, it is essential to consider a child’s language dominance when assessing his or her oral language skills, considering factors such as their exposure and usage of language over time and in different contexts. “Consistent use” is often defined in research studies as being when use occurs 90% of the time (e.g., Brown, 1973). This is difficult to apply in the English spoken in Singapore as use of morphological markers is context dependent and optional in sentences where the context is clear. For the EL1 participants in this study, while at times they used the plural “-s”marker and quantifiers to indicate plurality, relative consistency in use was not demonstrated until approximately 6 years. This is much later than would be expected for other forms of StdE spoken around the world where it emerges by approximately 2;6 years (Brown). These findings for this dialectal form of English therefore also have practical clinical implications in that consistent use of the marker among Singaporean English dominant children would not be expected until approximately 6 years of age, and assessment and intervention targets should reflect this difference. Language dominance is an important factor here, as emergence and consistency of use will be dependent on each child’s exposure to and use of SStdE. For the ML1 group, there was minimal noun plural marking and they did not show usage of morphological marking for plurality by the age of 6;8. These data for the ML1 participants marking of plurality represent a novel finding and are striking because of the obvious impact of language exposure and use for this language group. After two to three years of learning English in kindergarten, there was still no use of the plural “-s”marker demonstrated although there was a steady but non-significant increase in the use of a quantifier to indicate plurality throughout the preschool years. Language dominance The results for both main language dominance groups are markedly different and can be explained by the impact of the children’s language dominance. While the language environment in Singapore is complex and language use and dominance are highly variable across the population, these findings relate to similar findings of different patterns of acquisition of morphology for other bilingual populations such as for bilingual Mandarin–English speakers (Jia, 2003) and Spanish–Standard American English speakers in the United States (Bland-Stewart & Fitzgerald, 2001) in that the acquisition of plural marking differs from that of monolingual English speakers. That the ML1 participants were not using inflectional marking of noun plurals despite immersion in a SStdE educational environment can in part be explained by the characteristics of Mandarin. Plurality in Mandarin does not occur through inflectional marking, but is indicated by a number and a measure word being placed before the noun (Yip & Rimmington, 1997). This could explain the pattern in our results of quantifier use occurring in the stead of inflectional marking. There may also be impact of the characteristics of SCE which is the dialectal form of English most likely to be spoken with young children in Singapore (Gupta, 1994). In SCE, morphological marking is not mandatory but is context dependent. The use of quantifiers was also seen


JCPSLP Volume 18, Number 1 2016

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