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Nonword repetition in Cantonese (Fu et al., 2024)

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posted on 2024-04-29, 13:39 authored by Nga Ching Fu, Si Chen, Kamila Polišenská, Angel Chan, Rachel Kan, Shula Chiat

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 as the only reported exception. This study reexamines whether NWR is able to generate TD/DLD group differences in Cantonese-speaking children by reporting on a novel set of NWR stimuli that take into account factors known to affect NWR performance and group differentiation, including lexicality, sublexicality, length, and syllable complexity.

Method: Sixteen Cantonese-speaking children with DLD and 16 age-matched children with TD 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 nonmorphemic. Low-lexicality nonwords were further classified on sublexicality 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 peers with TD. 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 sublexicality 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 and a younger population as well as examine the diagnostic accuracy of this NWR test.

Supplemental Material S1. Full list of NWR stimuli.

Fu, N. C., Chen, S., Polišenská, K., Chan, A., Kan, R., & Chiat, S. (2024). Nonword repetition in children with developmental language disorder: Revisiting the case of Cantonese. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.