Phonological representation in SLI children

Also informing the centre's future research agenda, is recent work on phonological representations in children with SLI and their first-degree relatives. This work, in collaboration with John Harris, examines phonological structure using an "element" phonology approach (Harris, 1994), and has required the creation of a test of phonological structure using a non-word repetition methodology based on linguistic theory, whereby non-words systematically vary in prosodic and segmental structural complexity. This new assessment in which complexity is systematically varied according to the parameters of prosodic or segmental structure enables us to go beyond a correct-incorrect analysis to determine where a child's phonological system is breaking down with respect to speech elements. Within the adopted approach, these elements have direct acoustic correlates in the speech stream, thereby enabling us to link this work to our investigations of auditory perception.

To further advance knowledge about the development and nature of phonological representation in language impaired children, we are integrating phonological investigations of both production and perception with those examining the acoustic elements of speech. This project, planned to be conducted in collaboration with Profs Stuart Rosen, John Harris and Peter Jusczyk, benefited from many discussions with Peter Jusczyk and will continue with Rosen, Harris and Dr Franck Ramus. The planned work addresses many issues pertinent to Human Communication Science, including SLI, dyslexia, phonological development, auditory processing and speech perception.

To date, the phonological investigations have produced a test of non-words that is based on spoken speech and its acoustic relation to the speech stream, and has proved to be a sensitive measure of phonological structure This test is currently being used to assess adult dyslexic subjects and to identify residual phonological deficits in SLI subjects and their relatives in the Scottish Human Genetics project.

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