The Role of Speech Rhythm Sensitivity in Children's Reading Development

Holliman, Andrew John (2009). The Role of Speech Rhythm Sensitivity in Children's Reading Development. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000eb3d

Abstract

This thesis examines whether speech rhythm sensitivity is related to children's reading development, phonological awareness, and non-speech rhythm sensitivity, whether children at risk of reading difficulties have a specific speech rhythm sensitivity deficit, and whether speech rhythm sensitivity is predictive of children's reading development over time. Study One investigated the relatedness of speech rhythm, non-speech rhythm, reading ability and phonological awareness. A hierarchical regression analysis revealed that non-speech rhythm sensitivity was unable to predict unique variance in reading attainment after controlling for speech rhythm sensitivity and phonological awareness. In contrast, sensitivity to speech rhythm was able to predict a significant amount of unique variance in reading attainment after age, vocabulary, phonological awareness, short-term memory, and non-speech rhythm had been accounted for. These results suggest that speech rhythm sensitivity is not merely an aspect of general phonological awareness or rhythmic appreciation; it is a skill that is explaining new variance in reading ability. Study Two investigated whether a measure of speech rhythm sensitivity administered to 5 to 7-year-old children could predict the different components of reading ability one year later. A series of hierarchical regression analyses revealed that speech rhythm sensitivity was able to predict a significant amount of unique variance in word reading, reading comprehension, and the phrasing component of a reading fluency measure after controlling for receptive vocabulary, age and phonological awareness. Study Three investigated whether apparent speech rhythm sensitivity deficits in young poor readers represent a specific deficit in these children who were at risk of reading difficulties. It was found that after controlling for receptive vocabulary and phonological awareness, the 'at risk' children were outperformed by their chronological-age matched controls. but not by their reading-age matched controls on measures of speech rhythm sensitivity. This is suggestive of a maturational lag as opposed to a specific deficit in speech rhythm sensitivity. The overall findings from these concurrent, longitudinal, and cross-sectional data suggest that speech rhythm sensitivity is an important, yet neglected aspect of English-speaking children's phonological representations, which needs to be incorporated into theoretical accounts of reading development.

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