Word structures of Granada Spanish-speaking preschoolers with typical versus protracted phonological development.Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2015 May-Jun; 50(3):298-311.IJ
Research on children's word structure development is limited. Yet, phonological intervention aims to accelerate the acquisition of both speech-sounds and word structure, such as word length, stress or shapes in CV sequences. Until normative studies and meta-analyses provide in-depth information on this topic, smaller investigations can provide initial benchmarks for clinical purposes.
To provide preliminary reference data for word structure development in a variety of Spanish with highly restricted coda use: Granada Spanish (similar to many Hispano-American varieties). To be clinically applicable, such data would need to show differences by age, developmental typicality and word structure complexity. Thus, older typically developing (TD) children were expected to show higher accuracy than younger children and those with protracted phonological development (PPD). Complex or phonologically marked forms (e.g. multisyllabic words, clusters) were expected to be late developing.
METHODS & PROCEDURES
Participants were 59 children aged 3-5 years in Granada, Spain: 30 TD children, and 29 with PPD and no additional language impairments. Single words were digitally recorded by a native Spanish speaker using a 103-word list and transcribed by native Spanish speakers, with confirmation by a second transcriber team and acoustic analysis. The program Phon 1.5 provided quantitative data.
OUTCOMES & RESULTS
In accordance with expectations, the TD and older age groups had better-established word structures than the younger children and those with PPD. Complexity was also relevant: more structural mismatches occurred in multisyllabic words, initial unstressed syllables and clusters. Heterosyllabic consonant sequences were more accurate than syllable-initial sequences. The most common structural mismatch pattern overall was consonant deletion, with syllable deletion most common in 3-year-olds and children with PPD.
CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS
The current study provides preliminary reference data for word structure development in a Spanish variety with restricted coda use, both by age and types of word structures. Between ages 3 and 5 years, global measures (whole word match, word shape match) distinguished children with typical versus protracted phonological development. By age 4, children with typical development showed near-mastery of word structures, whereas 4- and 5-year-olds with PPD continued to show syllable deletion and cluster reduction, especially in multisyllabic words. The results underline the relevance of multisyllabic words and words with clusters in Spanish phonological assessment and the utility of word structure data for identification of protracted phonological development.