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Nonword Repetition in Children With Developmental Language Disorder: Revisiting the Case of Cantonese

Fu, N. C., Chen, S., Polišenská, K. ORCID: 0000-0001-7405-6689 , Chan, A., Kan, R. & Chiat, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-8981-8153 (2024). Nonword Repetition in Children With Developmental Language Disorder: Revisiting the Case of Cantonese. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, doi: 10.1044/2024_jslhr-22-00397


Purpose: Nonword repetition (NWR) has been described as a clinical marker of Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), as NWR tasks consistently discriminate between DLD and typical development (TD) cross-linguistically, with Cantonese the only reported exception (Stokes et al., 2006). This study re-examines whether NWR is able to generate TD/DLD group differences in Cantonese-speaking children, by reporting on a novel set of NWR stimuli which take into account factors known to affect NWR performance and group differentiation, including lexicality, sub-lexicality, length and syllable complexity.

Method: Sixteen Cantonese-speaking children with DLD and sixteen age-matched, TD children repeated two sets of High-Lexicality nonwords, where all constituent syllables are morphemic in Cantonese but meaningless when combined; and one set of Low-Lexicality nonwords, where all constituent syllables are non-morphemic. Low-Lexicality nonwords were further classified on sub-lexicality, in terms of consonant-vowel (CV) combination attestedness (whether or not CV combinations in nonword syllables occur in real Cantonese words).

Results: Children with DLD scored significantly below their TD peers. Effect sizes showed that High-Lexicality nonwords and nonword syllables with attested CV combinations offered the greatest TD/DLD group differentiation. Nonword length and syllable complexity did not affect TD/DLD group differentiation.

Conclusions: NWR can capture TD/DLD group differences in Cantonese-speaking children. Lexicality and sub-lexicality effects must be considered in designing NWR stimuli for TD/DLD group differentiation. Future studies should replicate the present study on a larger sample size, a younger population, and examine diagnostic accuracy of this NWR test.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Publisher Keywords: Nonword Repetition; Developmental Language Disorder; Cantonese Chinese
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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