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LINGUIST List 20.2652

Fri Jul 31 2009

Diss: Lang Acq/Phonology' Dickie: 'Exploring the Nature of the...'

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        1.    Catherine Dickie, Exploring the Nature of the Phonological Deficit in Dyslexia: Are phonological representations impaired?

Message 1: Exploring the Nature of the Phonological Deficit in Dyslexia: Are phonological representations impaired?
Date: 29-Jul-2009
From: Catherine Dickie <cath.ling1googlemail.com>
Subject: Exploring the Nature of the Phonological Deficit in Dyslexia: Are phonological representations impaired?
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Institution: University of Edinburgh
Program: Linguistics and English Language
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Catherine Dickie

Dissertation Title: Exploring the Nature of the Phonological Deficit in Dyslexia: Are phonological representations impaired?

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
                            Phonology

Dissertation Director:
Ann Clark
Mitsuhiko Ota

Dissertation Abstract:

Developmental dyslexia is widely believed to be caused either mainly or in
part by an impairment of phonological representations. Although this
hypothesis predicts that individuals with dyslexia should show deficits in
tasks which require the use of implicit phonological knowledge, this has
not yet been directly tested, as the evidence cited in support of this
hypothesis usually comes from metalinguistic tasks which demand explicit
awareness of phonological units. Additionally, since the ability to perform
metalinguistic tasks which involve phonological segments can be enhanced by
an individual's competence in alphabetic literacy, the possibility remains
that phonological skills may have been inadequately isolated from the
influences of literacy acquisition in many cases.

The study reported in this thesis investigated both the representations and
the metalinguistic skills of a group of adults with a history of
developmental dyslexia, examining areas of phonology which do and do not
have orthographic counterparts. To isolate phonological skills from
orthographic skills, the representations of conventional segmental
contrasts (e.g. /k/ vs /g/) were compared with the representation of
suprasegmental contrasts (as seen in minimal pairs such as 'toy factory and
toy 'factory), which have no orthographic counterpart. Basic metalinguistic
skills were tested by means of a phonological awareness task targeting both
segmental and suprasegmental units, and phonological manipulation skills
were tested using a Pig Latin task and a Spoonerism task, where
participants were required to manipulate both segmental and suprasegmental
units (e.g. extracting the segment /b/ from consonant clusters and the main
stress from SWW or WSW stress patterns).

The results showed that although the performance of the dyslexic group was
weaker than that of the control group when tasks required the manipulation
of either the segmental or suprasegmental components of words, no evidence
was found for a deficit in the tasks which drew on implicit representations
or basic metalinguistic skills. These findings suggest that the
phonological deficit in dyslexia may be restricted to the ability to
manipulate phonological units rather than in the representation of them per se.



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