This review addresses several situations of language learning to make concrete the issue of fairness—and justice—that arises in designing assessments. First, I discuss the implications of dialect variation in American English, asking how assessment has taken dialect into consideration. Second, I address the question of how to assess the distributed knowledge of bilingual or dual-language learners. The evaluation of the language skills of children growing up in poverty asks whether the current focus on the quantity of caregiver input is misplaced. Third, I address a special case in which the young speakers of a minority language, Romani, are judged to be unfit for schooling because they fail tests in the state language. Finally, I examine the difficult issue of language assessments in countries with multiple official languages and few resources. In each of these areas, the involvement and expertise of linguists are essential for knowing how the grammar works and what might be important to assess.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Literature Cited

  1. Am. Speech Lang. Hear. Assoc. 1983. Social dialects (position statement). Asha 25:25–27 http://www.asha.org/policy/PS1983-00115.htm [Google Scholar]
  2. Amnesty Int., ERRC (Eur. Roma Rights Cent.), Open Soc. Fund, COSIV (Czech Soc. Incl. Educ.). 2015. Czech Republic: Eight years after the D.H. judgment a comprehensive desegregation of schools must take place Report, index number EUR 71/2863/2015, Amnesty Int., London. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur71/2863/2015/en/
  3. Armon-Lotem S. 2012. Introduction. Bilingual children with SLI—the nature of the problem. Biling. Lang. Cogn. 15:1–4 [Google Scholar]
  4. Armon-Lotem S, de Jong J, Meir N. 2015. Communication Disorders Across Languages 13 Assessing Multilingual Children. Disentangling Bilingualism from Language Impairment. Bristol, UK: Multiling Matters
  5. Bakalar P. 2004. The IQ of Gypsies in Central Europe. Mankind Q 44:291–300 [Google Scholar]
  6. Benedicto E, Abdulkarim L, Johnson D, Garrett D, Seymour HN. 1998. Overt copulas in African American English speaking children. Proceedings of the 22nd Boston University Conference on Language Development A Greenhill, M Hughes, H Littlefield, H Walsh 50–57 Somerville, MA: Cascadilla [Google Scholar]
  7. Bedore LM, Peña ED, Gillam RB, Ho T. 2010. Language sample measures and language ability in Spanish English bilingual kindergarteners. J. Commun. Disord. 43:498–510 [Google Scholar]
  8. Bereiter C, Engelmann S. 1966. Teaching Disadvantaged Children in the Preschool Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall
  9. Berko J. 1958. The child's learning of English morphology. Word 14:150–77 [Google Scholar]
  10. Bernstein B. 1971. Class, Codes and Control: Theoretical Studies Towards a Sociology of Language London: Routledge/Kegan Paul
  11. Bialystok E, Luk G, Peets KF, Yang S. 2010. Receptive vocabulary differences in monolingual and bilingual children. Biling. Lang. Cogn. 13:525–31 [Google Scholar]
  12. Bortz M. 1994. Piloting a language assessment for preschool Zulu speakers Presented at Natl. Speech. Lang. Hear. Conf., Durban, S. Afr. http://www.play-it-forward-toys.co.za/Downloads/presclevahdev.pdf
  13. Campbell LR. 1996. Issues in service delivery to African American children. Communication Development and Disorders in African American Children: Research, Assessment, and Intervention AG Kamhi, KI Pollock, JL Harris 73–93 Baltimore: Brookes [Google Scholar]
  14. Cartmill EA, Armstrong BF, Gleitman LR, Goldin-Meadow S, Medina TN, Trueswell JC. 2013. Quality of early parent input predicts child vocabulary 3 years later. PNAS 110:11278–83 [Google Scholar]
  15. Cha K, Goldenberg C. 2015. The complex relationship between bilingual home language input and kindergarten children's Spanish and English oral proficiencies. J. Educ. Psychol. 107:935–53 [Google Scholar]
  16. Core C, Hoff E, Rumiche R, Señor M. 2013. Total and conceptual vocabulary in Spanish–English bilinguals from 22 to 30 months: implications for assessment. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. 56:1637–49 [Google Scholar]
  17. COST. 2010. Language impairment in a multilingual society: linguistic patterns and the road to assessment. Monitoring progress report. COST action IS0804, COST Brussels:
  18. Council of Europe. 2000. Recommendation No R (2000) 4 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the Education of Roma/Gypsy Children in Europe Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=09000016805e2e91 [Google Scholar]
  19. Council of Europe. 2007. A Curriculum Framework for Romani Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe
  20. Craig HK, Washington JA. 2000. An assessment battery for identifying language impairments in African American children. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. 43:366–79 [Google Scholar]
  21. Demuth K, Suzman S. 1997. Language impairment in Zulu. Proceedings of the 21st Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development EM Hughes, A Green 1124–35 Somerville, MA: Cascadilla [Google Scholar]
  22. de Villiers JG. 2015. Taking account of both languages in the assessment of dual language learners. Semin. Speech Lang. 36:120–32 [Google Scholar]
  23. de Villiers JG, Ning CY, Liu L, Rolfhus E, Hutchings T. et al. 2016. Acquisition and delay of exhaustivity in multiple wh-questions: evidence from children acquiring Mandarin Poster presented at 35th Annu. Symp. Res. Child Lang. Disord., Madison, WI, June 16–18 [Google Scholar]
  24. de Villiers JG, Roeper T, Bland-Stewart L, Pearson BZ. 2008. Answering hard questions: wh-movement across dialects and disorder. Appl. Psycholinguist. 29:67–103 [Google Scholar]
  25. de Villiers PA, de Villiers JG. 2010. Assessment of language acquisition. Cogn. Sci. 1:230–44 [Google Scholar]
  26. ERRC (Eur. Roma Rights Cent.). 2014. Overcoming barriers: ensuring that the Roma children are fully engaged and achieving in education Ref. number 140195, Off. Stand. Educ. Child. Serv. Skills, Manchester, UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ensuring-roma-children-achieve-in-education
  27. Fiestas CE, Peña ED. 2004. Narrative discourse in bilingual children: language and task effects. Lang. Speech Hear. Serv. Sch. 35:155–68 [Google Scholar]
  28. Flores G, Tomany-Korman SC. 2008. Racial and ethnic disparities in medical and dental health, access to care, and use of services in US children. Pediatrics 121:e286–98 [Google Scholar]
  29. Ford M, Baer CT, Xu D, Yapanel U, Gray S. 2008. The LENATM language environment analysis system: audio specifications of the DLP-0121 Tech. rep. LTR-03-2. Lena Found., Boulder, CO
  30. Fremlova L, Ureche H. 2011. From Segregation to Inclusion: Roma Pupils in the United Kingdom. A Pilot Research Project. Budapest: Roma Educ. Fund
  31. Fricke S, Bowyer-Crane C, Haley AJ, Hulme C, Snowling MJ. 2013. Efficacy of language intervention in the early years. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry 54:280–90 [Google Scholar]
  32. Friedman E, Gallová Kriglerová E, Kubánová M, Slosiarik M. 2009. School as Ghetto: Systemic Overrepresentation of Roma in Special Education in Slovakia Budapest: Roma Educ. Fund
  33. Friedmann N, Novogrodsky R. 2011. Which questions are most difficult to understand? The comprehension of wh questions in three subtypes of SLI. Lingua 121:367–82 [Google Scholar]
  34. Fryer RG Jr., Levitt SD. 2004. Understanding the black–white test score gap in the first two years of school. Rev. Econ. Stat. 86:447–64 [Google Scholar]
  35. Gagarina G, Klop D, Tsimpli I, Walters J. 2016. Narrative abilities in bilingual children. Appl. Psycholinguist. 37:11–17 [Google Scholar]
  36. Golinkoff R, de Villiers JG, Hirsh-Pasek K, Iglesias A, Wilson M. 2016. QUILS: Quick Interactive Language Screener Baltimore: Brookes
  37. Green LJ. 2002. African American English: A Linguistic Introduction Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press
  38. Green LJ. 2011. Language and the African American Child Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press
  39. Green L, Roeper T. 2007. The acquisition path for tense–aspect: remote past and habitual in child African American English. Lang. Acquis. 14:269–313 [Google Scholar]
  40. Hacohen A. 2006. The psychological reality of the telic/atelic distinction: evidence from adult and child Hebrew. Proceedings of the 21st Annual Meeting of the Israel Association for Theoretical Linguistics (IATL 21) YN Falk Jerusalem: IATL19 http://linguistics.huji.ac.il/IATL/21/Hacohen.pdf [Google Scholar]
  41. Hancock I. 1993. A Grammar of Vlax Romani London/Austin, TX: Romanestan
  42. Hart B, Risley TR. 1996. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children Baltimore: Brookes
  43. Hasson N, Joffe V. 2007. The case for dynamic assessment in speech and language therapy. Child Lang. Teach. Ther. 23:9–25 [Google Scholar]
  44. Heath SB. 1982. What no bedtime story means: language skills at home and school. Lang. Soc. 11:49–76 [Google Scholar]
  45. Heath SB. 1983. Ways with Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  46. Hirsh-Pasek K, Adamson LB, Bakeman R, Owen MT, Golinkoff R. et al. 2015. The contribution of early communication quality to low-income children's language success. Psychol. Sci. 26:1071–83 [Google Scholar]
  47. Hirsh-Pasek K, Kochanoff A, Newcombe N, de Villiers JG. 2005. Using scientific knowledge to inform preschool assessment: making the case for empirical validity. Soc. Policy Rep. 19:3–19 [Google Scholar]
  48. Hoff E. 2013a. Language Development Boston: Cengage
  49. Hoff E. 2013b. Interpreting the early language trajectories of children from low-SES and language minority homes: implications for closing achievement gaps. Dev. Psychol. 49:4–14 [Google Scholar]
  50. Iglesias A. 2015. Language impairment in bilingual children: from theory to practice. Semin. Speech Lang.3687–88
  51. Johnson VE. 2001. Fast mapping verb meaning from argument structure PhD thesis, Univ. Mass. Amherst:
  52. Johnson VE, de Villiers JG. 2009. Syntactic frames in fast mapping verbs: the effects of age, dialect and clinical status. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. 52:610–22 [Google Scholar]
  53. Kyuchukov H. 2005. Early socialization of Roma children in Bulgaria. Bilingualism and Education: From the Family to the School XP Rodriguez-Yanez, AM Lorenzo Suarez, F Ramallo 161–68 Munich, Ger.: Lincom [Google Scholar]
  54. Kyuchukov H. 2008. Language comprehension of Roma children from special schools in Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Equal Access to Quality Education for Children from Socially Disadvantaged Settings D Kopčnova 35–41 Bratislava: Res. Inst. Child Psychol. Pathopsychol./Educ. Sect., Slovak Comm. UNESCO [Google Scholar]
  55. Kyuchukov H. 2009. . [Preparation for Education of Roma Children in Home Environment Sofia, Bulg.: Wini [Google Scholar]
  56. Kyuchukov H. 2010. Romani language competence. Situation of Roma Minority in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia J Balvin, L Kwadrants 427–65 Wrocław, Pol.: Prom [Google Scholar]
  57. Kyuchukov H, de Villiers J. 2014. Addressing the rights of Roma children for a language assessment in their native language of Romani Poster presented at 35th Annu. Symp. Res. Child Lang. Disord. Madison, WI: June 16–18
  58. Kyuchukov H, de Villiers J, Hasan B. 2016. Language complexity, narratives and theory of mind of Romani-speaking children. Södertörn Series on Romani Studies 2: Proceedings of the 2015 Nordic Conference on Romani Studies In press [Google Scholar]
  59. Labov W. 1972. Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular Philadelphia: Univ. Pa. Press
  60. Lajčakova J. 2013. Civil Society Monitoring Report on the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy and Roma Decade Action Plan in 2012 in Slovakia Decade Roma Incl. Secr. Found. Budapest:
  61. Leonard LB. 2014. Children with Specific Language Impairment. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2nd ed..
  62. Liu X, de Villiers J, Ning C-Y, Rolfhus E, Lee W. et al. 2016. Research to establish the validity, reliability and clinical utility of a comprehensive language assessment of Mandarin. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. In press
  63. Matras Y. 2002. Romani: A Linguistic Introduction Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press
  64. Neuman SB. 2000. Social contexts for literacy development: a family literacy program. Play and Literacy in Early Childhood: Research from Multiple Perspectives KA Roskos, JF Christie 153–68 Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum [Google Scholar]
  65. Neuman SB, Celano D. 2001. Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities: an ecological study of four neighborhoods. Read. Res. Q. 36:8–26 [Google Scholar]
  66. Oetting JB, Gregory KD, Rivière A. 2016. Changing how speech–language pathologists think and talk about dialect variation. Perspect. ASHA Spec. Interest Groups 16:28–37 [Google Scholar]
  67. Oetting JB, Lee R, Porter KL. 2013. Evaluating the grammars of children who speak nonmainstream dialects of English. Top. Lang. Disord. 33:140–51 [Google Scholar]
  68. Oetting JB, McDonald JL. 2002. Methods for characterizing participants’ nonmainstream dialect use in child language research. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. 45:505–18 [Google Scholar]
  69. Oller DK, Pearson BZ, Cobo-Lewis AB. 2007. Profile effects in early bilingual language and literacy. Appl. Psycholinguist. 28:191–230 [Google Scholar]
  70. O'Neill W. 1998a. Education in the media. Radic. Teach. 54:13–17 [Google Scholar]
  71. O'Neill W. 1998b. If Ebonics isn't a language, then tell me, what is?. See Perry & Delpit 1998 38–48
  72. Ortman J, Shin H. 2011. Language projections: 2010 to 2020 Presented at Annu. Meet. Am. Sociol. Assoc. Las Vegas: Aug. 20–23
  73. Pascoe M. 2010. Children with speech difficulties: an exploratory survey of clinical practice in the Western Cape. S. Afr. J. Commun. Disord. 57:66–75 [Google Scholar]
  74. Pascoe M, Rogers C, Norman V. 2013. Are we there yet? On a journey towards more contextually relevant resources in speech–language therapy and audiology. S. Afr. J. Commun. Disord. 60:2–9 [Google Scholar]
  75. Paul R, Norbury C. 2012. Language Disorders from Infancy Through Adolescence: Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, and Communicating Amsterdam: Elsevier [Google Scholar]
  76. Pearson BZ, Conner T, Jackson JE. 2013. Removing obstacles for African American English–speaking children through greater understanding of language difference. Dev. Psychol. 49:31–44 [Google Scholar]
  77. Pearson BZ, Fernández SC, Oller DK. 1993. Lexical development in bilingual infants and toddlers: comparison to monolingual norms. Lang. Learn. 43:93–120 [Google Scholar]
  78. Pearson BZ, Fernández S, Oller DK. 1995. Cross-language synonyms in the lexicons of bilingual infants: one language or two. J. Child Lang. 22:345–68 [Google Scholar]
  79. Pearson BZ, Jackson JE, Wu H. 2014. Seeking a valid gold standard for an innovative, dialect-neutral language test. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. 57:495–508 [Google Scholar]
  80. Peña ED, Bedore LM. 2009. Bilingualism in child language disorder. Handbook of Child Language Disorders RG Schwarts 281–307 New York: Psychology [Google Scholar]
  81. Peña ED, Bedore LM, Zlatic-Giunta R. 2002a. Category-generation performance of bilingual children: the influence of condition, category, and language. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. 45:938–47 [Google Scholar]
  82. Peña ED, Bedore LM, Zlatic-Giunta R. 2002b. Use of a category generation task to assess vocabulary skills of Spanish–English bilinguals. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. 46:938–47 [Google Scholar]
  83. Peña ED, Gillam RB, Bedore LM, Bohman T. 2011. Risk for poor performance on a language screening measure for bilingual preschoolers and kindergarteners. Am. J. Speech Lang. Pathol. 20:302–14 [Google Scholar]
  84. Peña ED, Gutiérrez-Clellen VF, Iglesias A, Goldstein BA, Bedore LM. 2013. Bilingual English Spanish Assessment (BESA) Manual San Rafael, CA: AR-Clinical Publ. [Google Scholar]
  85. Peña ED, Halle TG. 2011. Assessing preschool dual language learners: traveling a multiforked road. Child Dev. Perspect. 5:28–32 [Google Scholar]
  86. Peña E, Quinn R. 1997. Task familiarity: effects on the test performance of Puerto Rican and African American children. Lang. Speech Hear. Serv. Sch. 28:323–32 [Google Scholar]
  87. Peña E, Quinn R, Iglesias A. 1992. The application of dynamic methods to language assessment: a nonbiased procedure. J. Spec. Educ. 26:269–80 [Google Scholar]
  88. Perry T, Delpit L. 1998. The Real Ebonics Debate: Power, Language and the Education of African American Children Boston: Beacon [Google Scholar]
  89. Plante E, Vance R. 1994. Selection of preschool language tests: a data-based approach. Lang. Speech Hear. Serv. Sch. 25:15–24 [Google Scholar]
  90. Reger Z. 1999. Teasing in the linguistic socialization of Gypsy children in Hungary. Acta Linguist. Hung. 46:289–315 [Google Scholar]
  91. Reilly S, Tomblin B, Law J, McKean C, Mensah FK. et al. 2014. Specific language impairment: a convenient label for whom. Int. J. Lang. Commun. Disord. 49:416–51 [Google Scholar]
  92. Rhodes R, Ochoa SH, Ortiz SO. 2005. Comprehensive Assessment of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students: A Practical Approach New York: Guilford
  93. Rice ML. 2013. Language growth and genetics of specific language impairment. Int. J. Speech Lang. Pathol. 15:223–33 [Google Scholar]
  94. Rice ML, Wexler K. 1996. Toward tense as a clinical marker of specific language impairment in English-speaking children. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. 39:1239–57 [Google Scholar]
  95. Sattler JM. 1992. Assessment of Children San Diego, CA: Jerome Sattler, 3rd ed..
  96. Schulz P, Roeper T. 2011. Acquisition of exhaustivity in wh-questions: a semantic dimension of SLI. Lingua 121:spec. issue383–407 [Google Scholar]
  97. Seymour HN, Bland L, Green LJ. 1998. Difference versus deficit in child African-American English. Lang. Speech Hear. Serv. Sch. 29:96–108 [Google Scholar]
  98. Seymour HN, Pearson BZ. 2004. Evaluating language variation: distinguishing development and dialect from disorder. Semin. Speech Lang. 251, spec. issue New York: Thieme [Google Scholar]
  99. Seymour HN, Roeper T, de Villiers J. 2005. The DELV-NR: The Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation San Antonio, TX: Psychol. Corp. Norm-ref, ed..
  100. Smouse MR. 2013. Uninterpretable features in comprehension: subject–verb agreement in isiXhosa. S. Afr. J. Afr. Lang. 33:65–74 [Google Scholar]
  101. Spaulding TJ, Plante E, Farinella KA. 2006. Eligibility criteria for language impairment: Is the low end of normal always appropriate. Lang. Speech Hear. Serv. Sch. 37:61–72 [Google Scholar]
  102. Stockman IJ. 1996. The promises and pitfalls of language sample analysis as an assessment tool for linguistic minority children. Lang. Speech Hear. Serv. Sch. 27:355–66 [Google Scholar]
  103. Stockman IJ. 2010. A review of developmental and applied language research on African American children: from a deficit to difference perspective on dialect differences. Lang. Speech Hear. Serv. Sch. 41:23–38 [Google Scholar]
  104. Storkel HL, Hoover JR. 2011. The influence of part-word phonotactic probability/neighborhood density on word learning by preschool children varying in expressive vocabulary. J. Child Lang. 38:628–43 [Google Scholar]
  105. Suzman SM. 2002. Morphological accessibility in Zulu. Amsterdam Stud. Theory Hist. Linguist. Sci. Ser. 4:155–74 [Google Scholar]
  106. Tager-Flusberg H, Cooper J. 1999. Present and future possibilities for defining a phenotype for specific language impairment. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. 42:1275–78 [Google Scholar]
  107. Teasley C. 2013. Educating against the cultural politics and complicities of containment. Roma Education in Europe: Practices, Policies and Politics M Miskovic 29–41 New York: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  108. Tomblin B, Records NL, Buckwalter PR, Zhang X, Smith E, O'Brien M. 1997. Prevalence of specific language impairment in kindergarten children. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. 40:1245–60 [Google Scholar]
  109. Unsworth S. 2013. Assessing the role of current and cumulative exposure in simultaneous bilingual acquisition: the case of Dutch gender. Biling. Lang. Cogn. 16:86–110 [Google Scholar]
  110. van der Lely HK, Battell J. 2003. Wh-movement in children with grammatical SLI: a test of the RDDR hypothesis. Language 79:153–81 [Google Scholar]
  111. van Dulm O, Southwood F. 2008. Toward a dialect-neutral Afrikaans-medium child language assessment instrument: test item development. Lang. Matters 39:300–15 [Google Scholar]
  112. Van Hout A. 2008. Acquiring perfectivity and telicity in Dutch, Italian and Polish. Lingua 118:1740–65 [Google Scholar]
  113. Wagner L. 2002. Children's comprehension of completion cntailments in the absence of agency cues. J. Child Lang. 29:109–25 [Google Scholar]
  114. Washington JA, Craig HK. 2004. A language screening protocol for use with young African American children in urban settings. Am. J. Speech Lang. Pathol. 13:329–40 [Google Scholar]
  115. Westby CE. 2007. Child maltreatment: a global issue. Lang. Speech Hear. Serv. Sch. 38:140–48 [Google Scholar]
  116. Wyatt TA. 2002. Assessing the communicative abilities of clients from diverse cultural and language backgrounds. Communication Disorders in Multicultural Populations DE Battle 415–59 Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 3rd ed.. [Google Scholar]
  117. Zepeda M, Rodriguez JL. 2014. Bilingual development in early childhood. Mexican American Children and Families: Multidisciplinary Perspectives Y Caldera, E Lindsey 122–34 New York: Routledge [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error