Using oral narratives to examine acquisition of English verb morphology among multilingual Arabic and monolingual Hebrew speakers: finding similarities with monolingual English-speaking SLIs

Document Type



Acquisition of oral English verb morphology presents difficulties for bilinguals, learners of EFL and English-speaking monolingual children with specific language impairment. This study aimed to identify challenging English verb inflections among sixth grade speakers of Arabic (N = 85) and Hebrew (N = 86) using an elicited oral narrative task, and EFL L1, L2, L3 skills that support oral production of English morphosyntactic structures and verb inflections. To understand potential universal versus language specific patterns, we compared performance of our sample with that of monolingual children with specific language impairment. Oral narratives were transcribed and analysed for obligatory use of four target tenses to assess the use of verb inflectional morphology. Results indicated that 3rd person singular presented most difficulties for both groups. Present progressive was more difficult for Hebrew speakers, as Arabic utilises this aspectual form in oral modality, while copula was more problematic for Arabic speakers. This error pattern aligns with use of verb inflections by English monolingual SLIs. Notable differences were seen in EFL/ L1/L2/L3 skills supporting EFL verb inflections: Hebrew speakers relied mostly on English reading comprehension, while Arabic speakers drew support from EFL, L1, and Hebrew morphological awareness. We attribute these differences to the multilingual status of Arabic speakers. © 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Publication Title

International Journal of Multilingualism

Publication Date







Arabic, English as a foreign language, Hebrew, Morphosyntactic structure, multilingualism, specific language impairment