Semester of Graduation

Fall 2021


Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Sciences

Document Type



A receptive-expressive language gap occurs when a standardized receptive score is statistically greater than an expressive score in either a primary or a second language. In bilingual children, gap studies already exist for determining language impairment. In adults, there are few studies; nevertheless, one needs to distinguish between typical language patterns of bilingualism due to non-pathological loss of L1 skills versus problems resulting from accidents, disease, or age. To this end, the present study attempted to expand findings of studies by Gibson et al. (2012 and 2014) that focused on analysis of the gap and possible factors influencing its existence and magnitude in both Spanish and English of bilingual children. The present research investigates 21 typically-developed adult participants from 9 Spanish-speaking countries, between the ages of 25-71. The principal purpose was to demonstrate the degree to which the gap existed or had disappeared. As a secondary goal, if a gap were detected, speculation would be made as to possible causal factors associated with the gap in this sample. Participants were assessed via Zoom software with standardized bilingual versions of the One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test (EOWPVT-SBE and ROWPVT-SBE). They were also assessed with the Language Experience and Proficiency Questionnaire (LEAP-Q). Standardized test results were analyzed by a paired sample t-test. Analyses demonstrated no gap for the study sample. However, individual results on the tests provided curious patterns that served as a basis for discussion as to why L1 results were better overall than those of L2, why no overall typical gap appeared in either language, and why an inverse pattern of expressive language exceeding receptive language emerged. No gap may have appeared, perhaps due to presentation of several gap patterns, a mismatch between participant types used in the norming process and present study, data-gathering differences, test design, and the weaker links hypothesis. Spanish results were better due to factors of early age of acquisition (AoA) of L1, current use, and self-rating proficiency.

Committee Chair

Todd Gibson