Language Evolution, Acquisition and Processing (LEAP) Workshop

November 15, 2019 | 11:30AM
Cobb 302

Anisia Popescu (University of Potsdam) will present:


Literacy and speech motor control development: reading proficiency correlates with coarticulation degree 

The goal of the present study is to examine whether the acquisition of reading in early primary school, coupled with a gain in phonemic awareness (PA), impacts children's spoken language fluency. In particular, we investigate the effect of reading acquisition on coarticulatory degree (CD), which is usually taken to reflect how much articulatory gestures of consecutive phonemes are temporally overlapping. Prior research has shown that between kindergarten and primary school, German children reduce the size of their coarticulatory units and produce more segmentally specified articulatory gestures. There is also a great deal of evidence that during the same period, children gain increasingly detailed structural knowledge of their native language. They transition from the awareness of large structural units (words, syllables) to the full spectrum of phonological units including the smallest phonemic particles. Research has shown that in transparent languages, (e.g., German) this knowledge provides a solid foundation for developing literacy. Taken together, those findings suggest that in the course of developing fluency in their native language, children gain greater access and ability to manipulate segmental information. 
While the relation between phonological awareness and reading has been made explicit over the past decades, whether this late-developing relation affects the formerly acquired skill of speech is not fully understood. Speech production also uses the native language ́s phonological system but phonemic units are embedded into continuous articulatory-acoustic streams rather than mediated through discrete printed symbols. Our driving hypothesis is that by stimulating explicit structural knowledge of the language, reading proficiency combined with greater phonemic awareness should impact children ́s original organization of speech.