Article  |   December 2009
The Perception of Lexical Tone Contrasts in Cantonese Children With and Without Specific Language Impairment (SLI)
 
Author Notes
  • Contact author: Anita M.-Y. Wong, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Hong Kong, 5th Floor, Prince Philip Dental Hospital, 34 Hospital Road, Sai Yin Pun, Hong Kong, China. E-mail: amywong@hkusua.hku.hk.
  • Valter Ciocca is now at the School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, University of British Columbia.
    Valter Ciocca is now at the School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, University of British Columbia.×
  • © 2009 American Speech-Language-Hearing AssociationAmerican Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Article Information
Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Hearing
Article   |   December 2009
The Perception of Lexical Tone Contrasts in Cantonese Children With and Without Specific Language Impairment (SLI)
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2009, Vol. 52, 1493-1509. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0170)
History: Received August 16, 2008 , Revised March 1, 2009 , Accepted May 27, 2009
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2009, Vol. 52, 1493-1509. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0170)
History: Received August 16, 2008; Revised March 1, 2009; Accepted May 27, 2009
Web of Science® Times Cited: 6

Purpose: This study examined the perception of fundamental frequency (f0) patterns by Cantonese children with and without specific language impairment (SLI).

Method: Participants were 14 five-year-old children with SLI, and 14 age-matched (AM) and 13 four-year-old vocabulary-matched (VM) controls. The children identified a word from familiar word pairs that illustrated the 8 minimally contrastive pairs of the 6 lexical tones. They discriminated the f0 patterns within contrastive tonal pairs in speech and nonspeech stimuli.

Results: In tone identification, the SLI group performed worse than the AM group but not the VM group. In tone discrimination, the SLI group did worse than the AM group on 2 contrasts and showed a nonsignificant trend of poorer performance on all contrasts combined. The VM group generally did worse than the AM group. There were no group differences in discrimination performance between speech and nonspeech stimuli. No correlation was found between identification and discrimination performance. Only the normal controls showed a moderate correlation between vocabulary scores and performance in the 2 perception tasks.

Conclusion: The SLI group’s poor tone identification cannot be accounted for by vocabulary knowledge alone. The group’s tone discrimination performance suggests that some children with SLI have a deficit in f0 processing.

Acknowledgments
We acknowledge University of Hong Kong Basic Research Seed Grant 10205792 and Grant 7264/04H from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council for funding support. The equipment was substantially supported by Grant 7224/03H from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council. Portions of the data set were accepted for a poster presentation at the 28th Annual Symposium on Research in Child Language Disorders, University of Wisconsin–Madison.
We would like to thank the senior speech therapist Yvonne Lai at the Heep Hong Society and Gladys Yan at the Spastics Association of Hong Kong (SAHK) for their advice in participant recruitment. Thanks also go to the University of Hong Kong Speech and Hearing Clinic, Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, the Hong Kong Christian Services Kwai Hing Centre, Joyful Mill, Kau Yan School Kindergarten Section, Yan Chai Hospital Fong Kong Fai Kindergarten, Rhenish Mission School, and Thomas Tam Nursery School for their generous support in data collection. We appreciate our group of research assistants Dorcas Chow, Ginny Lai, and Deborah Pun for their commitment to this project.
Finally, we could not have completed this project without the children, who did their very best and made it fun for us. We thank them all.
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