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Title: Rhythmic sensitivity and developmental language disorder in children
Author: Richards, Susan Mary
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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Children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) have difficulties in acquiring language in the absence of other neurodevelopmental issues (e.g. autism, hearing impairment) and despite growing up in an adequate language-learning environment. Previous characterisations of DLD have focused on grammatical processing, phonological memory or rapid auditory processing. This thesis approaches the language-learning difficulties of children with DLD from a novel perspective by considering the potential contribution made by differing levels of sensitivity to the rhythmic properties of language. Children with DLD have been shown to have reduced sensitivity to some of the acoustic cues present in speech which are thought to be important for rhythmic perception. Since rhythm forms the basis of language processing in early development, poorer sensitivity to language rhythm may result in later language problems. To investigate whether children with DLD demonstrate difficulties in processing language rhythm, this thesis explores five areas of language processing which could be affected by poor rhythmic sensitivity: locating word-boundaries, processing novel words, storing lexical stress patterns, representing sentence level structures and the integration of rhythm and syntax. As part of the investigation, measures were also taken of acoustic threshold sensitivity to see whether task performance related to acoustic sensitivity. A parallel strand of the study investigated whether provision of an entraining rhythm prior to task stimuli could support task performance. Three groups of children participated in the study: children with DLD, age-matched TD children (AMC) and younger, language-matched TD children (YLC). The results indicate that rhythmic manipulation of language stimuli affects task responses across the five language areas under investigation. The findings are then discussed in terms of the contribution made to our understanding of the role of rhythm in language and language disorder.
Supervisor: Goswami, Usha Claire Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Developmental Language Disorder ; Specific Language Impairment ; Rhythm ; Language Rhythm ; Amplitude Rise Time ; Prosody ; Entrainment ; Rhythmic Sensitivity ; Acoustic Sensitivity