Towards understanding the bilingual profile in typical and atypical language development: A tutorial

Int J Speech Lang Pathol. 2020 Feb;22(1):106-116. doi: 10.1080/17549507.2019.1598492. Epub 2019 May 2.


Purpose: The purpose of this tutorial is to inform assessment, treatment and research approaches that are uniquely tailored to bilingual children with and without developmental language disorder (DLD), a communication disorder characterised by weaknesses in language production and comprehension.Method: A review is presented on what is known about joint language activation in adult and child bilinguals. This supports a discussion of the bilingual profile, which includes cross-language interactions and associations with broader cognitive functions. This is followed by consideration on how these bilingual phenomena may manifest in the context of relatively weak language skills, as is the case with DLD.Result: In addition to exploring the bilingual profile, guidelines are provided for incorporating cognates - a type of translation equivalent with distinct overlap in form and meaning that enhances cross-linguistic interactions - in language assessment, therapy and research.Conclusion: The field of speech-language pathology would benefit from more tools specifically designed for bilingual children. Already, there is interest in clinical applications of cognates, as they may support transfer and generalisation across languages. Future research is needed to better explore this potential in child bilinguals, particularly those with DLD. Such work would help establish a developmental bilingual language processing model with clinical relevance.

Keywords: bilingualism; cross-language interactions; developmental language disorder; executive function; language development; language impairment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Development Disorders*
  • Male
  • Multilingualism*
  • Speech-Language Pathology*