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A core difficulty in developmental dyslexia is the accurate specification and neural representation of speech. We argue that a likely perceptual cause of this difficulty is a deficit in the perceptual experience of rhythmic timing. Speech rhythm is one of the earliest cues used by infants to discriminate syllables and is determined principally by the acoustic structure of amplitude modulation at relatively low rates in the signal. We show significant differences between dyslexic and normally reading children, and between young early readers and normal developers, in amplitude envelope onset detection. We further show that individual differences in sensitivity to the shape of amplitude modulation account for 25% of the variance in reading and spelling acquisition even after controlling for individual differences in age, nonverbal IQ, and vocabulary. A possible causal explanation dependent on perceptual-center detection and the onset-rime representation of syllables is discussed.
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Amplitude envelope onsets and developmental
dyslexia: A new hypothesis
Usha Goswami*
, Jennifer Thomson*, Ulla Richardson*, Rhona Stainthorp
, Diana Hughes
, Stuart Rosen
and Sophie K. Scott
*Institute of Child Health, University College London, London WC1N 1EH, United Kingdom;
Institute of Education, University of London, London
WC1H 0AA, United Kingdom;
Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London, Egham, Surrey
TW20 0EX, United Kingdom; and Departments of
Phonetics and Linguistics and
Psychology, University College London, London
WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom
Communicated by James L. McClelland, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, June 20, 2002 (received for review January 25, 2002)
A core difficulty in developmental dyslexia is the accurate speci-
fication and neural representation of speech. We argue that a likely
perceptual cause of this difficulty is a deficit in the perceptual
experience of rhythmic timing. Speech rhythm is one of the earliest
cues used by infants to discriminate syllables and is determined
principally by the acoustic structure of amplitude modulation at
relatively low rates in the signal. We show significant differences
between dyslexic and normally reading children, and between
young early readers and normal developers, in amplitude envelope
onset detection. We further show that individual differences in
sensitivity to the shape of amplitude modulation account for 25%
of the variance in reading and spelling acquisition even after
controlling for individual differences in age, nonverbal IQ, and
vocabulary. A possible causal explanation dependent on percep-
tual-center detection and the onset-rime representation of sylla-
bles is discussed.
hildren with developmental dyslexia have specific problems
with reading and spelling that cannot be accounted for by
low intelligence, poor educational opportunities, or obvious
sensoryneurological damage. The accepted core problem
across languages is a deficit in phonological representation (1, 2),
although this can be accompanied by other deficits (3, 4). In
developmental theories of language acquisition, phonological or
speech-based representations in children no longer are thought
to be organized around phonemic segments from the outset (5).
The explicit phonemic representation of speech is thought to
depend on being taught to read an alphabetic script (6). If it is
accepted that phonemic representation is a product of literacy
and constitutes a psychological process that is not logically
necessary for speech perception and production (7), then the
phonological deficit in dyslexia must arise at a developmentally
earlier level of phonological representation than the phoneme.
Obvious candidate levels are those of the syllable (pop-si-cle,
gar-den) and onset rime (s-eat, sw-eet, str-eet). Phonological
awareness of the syllables, onsets, and rimes in words develops
before literacy across languages. For example, prereaders learn-
ing to speak English, Chinese, and German all perform well in
‘‘oddity’’ tasks in which they must select the odd word out that
does not rhyme (e.g., pat, hat, man; refs. 8–10). Onset-rime
awareness tasks (but not usually syllabic-awareness tasks) also
are good predictors of literacy acquisition across languages
(11–13). A perceptual deficit in the mechanisms used to extract
the suprasegmental attributes of the speech stream thus may
help to cause the phonological awareness and literacy problems
characteristic of developmental dyslexia across orthographies.
Rhythm in speech is a property of the slow amplitude mod-
ulation (AM) of the waveform (14), corresponding roughly to
the AM associated with syllables. Previous studies have shown
that dyslexic children have difficulty in detection of AM and
frequency modulation at rates (2–10 Hz) similar to those seen at
the syllable level in speech (15, 16). To investigate the impact that
these difficulties might have on the perception of rhythm in
acoustic signals, we designed a perceptual task in which AM was
varied to affect the perception of distinct, discrete ‘‘beats’’ in the
auditory stream. Potential differences in the psychometric func-
tion for beat detection between dyslexic and matched control
children, and between precocious readers and their matched
controls, then were investigated.
Our psychophysical task was based on a rate of AM change
task, which takes advantage of the relationship between beat
perception and the shape of AM change (17). The task was based
on a sinusoid that was modulated in amplitude to a depth of 50%.
Within this, the rate of amplitude change only was varied by
varying the rise time of the modulation, while the overall rate of
modulation was held constant at 0.7 Hz (see Fig. 1). Very slow
rise times (250 ms) give the percept of a continuous sound that
varies in loudness. When the rise time is shortened sufficiently,
however (e.g., to 120 ms), the percept changes to that of a
continuous sound with a loud beat occurring rhythmically at the
same rate as the modulation (18). Given that aspects of syllable
processing (i.e., onset-rime awareness) are poorer in dyslexic
children, we predicted that they would have poorer sensitivity to
the perceptual consequences of AM than control children. As
rise time is varied, dyslexic children should evidence less change
in AM-related experiences of beat perception than their con-
trols. Two studies of beat detection were carried out. In the first,
dyslexic children were compared with reading and chronological
age-matched control children in a cross-sectional design. In the
second, young early readers participating in a longitudinal study
were compared with their matched controls from the same study.
We predicted that precocious readers should be significantly
more sensitive to variations of rise time in the amplitude-
modulated sequences than their controls, as indexed by their
perception of beats.
The ‘‘phonological deficit’’ in developmental dyslexia is in-
dexed typically by behavioral difficulties in three related areas of
phonological processing, all of which we expected to be related
to beat detection. We therefore measured phonological aware-
ness (using the rhyme oddity task), rapid ‘‘automatized’’ naming
(or RAN) of letters and pictures, and phonological short-term
memory (PSTM, repetition of triples of nonwords) in our
dyslexic children and their controls. We also measured spelling
as well as reading. In languages other than English, develop-
mental dyslexia is diagnosed on the basis of a severe spelling
deficit accompanied by extremely slow performance in phono-
logical processing tasks (because orthographic transparency
makes decoding very accurate). To contribute to developmental
dyslexia across languages, therefore, beat detection should be
related to spelling as well as to reading.
Abbreviations: AM, amplitude modulation; RAN, rapid automatized naming; PSTM, pho-
nological short-term memory; RFD, rapid-frequency discrimination; TOJ, temporal order
judgement; CA, chronological age; RL, reading level; WISC, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for
Children; P center, perceptual center.
To whom reprint requests should be addressed at: Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford
Street, London WC1N 1EH, United Kingdom. E-mail:
www.pnas.orgcgidoi10.1073pnas.122368599 PNAS
August 6, 2002
vol. 99
no. 16
On the basis of the prior basic auditory processing literature
with dyslexic children, we also included two rapid temporal-
processing tasks in our study. One was a version of the rapid-
frequency discrimination (RFD) task pioneered by Tallal and
coworkers (19). The other was a temporal order-judgement
(TOJ) task based on easily labeled environmental sounds (dog
car horn). We expected dyslexic children to show deficits in both
tasks, because both require rapid spectrotemporal integration
(suggested to be the basis of the phonological deficit in dyslexia
by Tallal et al. in refs. 20 and 21). However, deficits in rapid
spectrotemporal integration (and processing related acoustic
cues such as place of articulation and voice-onset time) have not
always been found in dyslexic children (22).
Subjects. One hundred and one children were tested, of whom 24
had a statement of dyslexia from their local education authority.
In the United Kingdom, ‘‘statements of dyslexia’’ depend on
extensive testing by educational psychologists and are the basis
for service provision. Twenty of the dyslexic children were at
special schools with curricula focused on remediating the pho-
nological deficit. Because of this remediation, single-word de-
coding for this group was in the normal range. Subject charac-
teristics are shown in Table 1. None of the dyslexic children had
additional difficulties (e.g., dyspraxia, attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder, autistic spectrum disorder, or specific
language impairment) according to their specialist assessments.
The control children for the dyslexics (n 49) were drawn from
local schools and comprised those in the right agereading age
range whose parents returned consent forms. Twenty-eight
children who were participating in a longitudinal study of
precocious readers were tested also with the beat-detection task.
All of these participants had been followed from 4 years of age
and were aged 11 at the time of testing. Of these children, 14 were
young early readers, and 14 were young early controls who had
been individually matched to the young early readers on the basis
of socioeconomic status and vocabulary ability at age 4 (23).
Auditory Processing Tasks. AMbeat-perception task. The children
were presented with 7.857-s sound sequences, all of which were
sinusoidal carriers at 500 Hz, were amplitude-modulated at a
rate of 0.7 Hz, and had a depth of 50%. The underlying
modulation envelope was based on a square wave, but the fall
time was fixed at 350 ms, and the rise time could be varied from
15 to 300 ms (logarithmically spaced over a continuum of 40
stimuli). Before testing, the children were trained by using the
two extremes of the continuum. The 15-ms stimulus (which
yielded a clear beat) was presented as the sound of two toys
(Tigger and Eeyore) swinging on a double-toy swing. The
back-and-forth rhythm of their swing coincided with the beat in
the signal. The 300-ms stimulus was presented as the sound of
Winnie the Pooh sliding down a solid plastic straw in the form
of a spiral (he got nearer to the child or further away as the
training sound got louder and quieter, respectively). The chil-
dren then were asked to decide whether subsequent stimuli
(given by computer through headphones) belonged to Winnie
the Pooh or to Tigger and Eeyore. Performance on this task was
measured by using Levitts adaptive procedure (24) with mod-
ifications to increase efficiency (25). Two independent adaptive
tracks were used to estimate the points on the rise-time contin-
uum at which the stimuli were labeled as Winnie the Pooh 29 and
71% of the time, with a maximum of 40 trials. Tracks started at
the endpoints of the continuum, with rise times of 15 and 300 ms.
The categorization function was derived from all trials in a
particular test, and summary statistics for slope and category
boundary estimated by Probit analysis (26). Shallower slopes
Fig. 1. Examples of the stimulus wave form for rise times of 15 (a) and 300
(b) ms.
Fig. 2. Bubble plots of the psychometric functions from the dyslexic (a), chronological age (CA) control (b), and reading level (RL) control (c) groups for the
beat-detection task. The size of the bubbles represents the number of trials.
www.pnas.orgcgidoi10.1073pnas.122368599 Goswami et al.
indicate less sensitivity to variations in the acoustic feature
varied across the continuum (here, rise time).
RFD task. The nonspeech samedifferent task was similar to
that described in ref. 19. The basic stimuli were two vowel-like
50-ms complex periodic tones (rise and fall times of 5 ms) with
fundamental frequencies of 100 and 305 Hz. Every trial con-
sisted of two stimuli presented sequentially with an interstimulus
interval (ISI) of 0, 10, 50, 100, or 400 ms. All four possible
stimulus orders were presented (low-low, low-high, high-low, and
high-high), and listeners responded by indicating ‘‘same’’ or
‘‘different.’’ Trials were presented in a random order, with one
occurrence of each ISI and stimulus order, making 20 trials
(5 ISIs 4 orders).
Dogcar-horn TOJ task. This task used two stimuli that were
readily identifiable without prior training as a dog bark and a car
horn. The dog bark was aperiodic, whereas the car horn was
periodic with a fundamental frequency of 400 Hz. Starting
from sounds accompanying a childrens computer game, various
manipulations of amplitude envelope and duration were used to
create stimuli with a total duration of 115 ms each, with rise and
fall times of 5 ms. The two stimuli then were normalized to have
the same rms level. The continuum of sounds consisted of 204
stimuli in which the stimulus onset asynchrony varied from 405
ms (horn leading dog) to 405 ms (dog leading horn) in 4-ms
steps. Stimuli were allowed to overlap to the degree necessary to
create the specified stimulus onset asynchronys. For testing, the
same adaptive procedure was used as for the beat-detection task,
but the children indicated simply which sound they heard first.
If dyslexic children are poorer at TOJs, then their psychometric
functions in this task also should be flatter than those of controls.
Phonological Processing Tasks. Oddity task. The child listened to
sets of three words and had to select the nonrhyme (e.g., gap,
nap, Jack).
PSTM. The child listened to sets of three nonwords and had to
repeat them (e.g., loff, bup, heg). Both tasks were presented via
headphones by using digitized speech.
RAN task. The child had to name familiar pictures and letters
under timed conditions.
Standardized Psychometric Tests. The children received four sub-
sets of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC):
blocks, picture arrangement, similarities, and vocabulary. The
British Ability Scales reading, spelling, and mathematics sub-
scales also were administered, along with the Graded Test of
Nonword Reading (27).
Beat Detection in Dyslexic and Normally Reading Children. A signif-
icant difference was found between the group of dyslexic chil-
dren and their chronological age controls in the slope of the
categorization function (see Fig. 2), with the dyslexics showing
flatter slopes as predicted [mean slope ⫽⫺0.03 for dyslexics
(SD 0.04) and 0.12 for controls (SD 0.08), P 0.000]. The
reading age match controls showed intermediate slopes (mean
slope ⫽⫺0.06, SD 0.05). Detection of beats in AM signals
Fig. 3. Bubble plots of the psychometric functions from the dyslexic (a), CA control (b), and RL control (c) groups for the dogcar-horn TOJ task. The stimulus
onset asynchrony (SOA) values refer to the stimulus onset asynchrony of the dog in relation to the car horn (e.g., 400 ms means the dog barked 400 ms before
the horn sounded).
Table 1. Participant characteristics
Standardized tests
Dyslexic CA match RL match
Young early
readers Non-early readers
N 24 25 24 14 14
Age in years and months 9, 0 (11) 9, 0 (8) 7, 11 (4) 11, 4 (4) 11, 4 (4)
Reading standard score* 101.1 (11.7) 142.5 (14.7) 108.3 (13.0) 117.4 (3.6) 110.9 (5.5)
Spelling standard score* 69.0 (12.1) 107.8 (16.2) 85.5 (12.1) 124.4 (8.3) 109.7 (6.7)
Nonword reading20 7.4 (5.5) 15.7 (4.0) 11.3 (5.1) ——
109.1 (11.4) 111.9 (11.0) 105.7 (10.6) 50.4 (3.3) 47.8 (5.4)
Standard deviations are shown in parentheses.
*Dyslexics and CA and RL controls: British Ability Scales. Young early readers, non-early readers, WORD.
Dyslexics and CA and RL controls: WISC. Young early readers, non-early readers, Ravens raw score.
Goswami et al. PNAS
August 6, 2002
vol. 99
no. 16
thus was poorer in the dyslexic children than in their peers and
seemed to vary with reading level.
To explore the relationship between beat detection and
phonological processing, reading and spelling, partial correla-
tions controlling for age, and WISC IQ (WISC short form) were
calculated. Group performance in the behavioral tasks is shown
in Table 2, and the partial correlations are shown in Table 3. As
predicted, there were highly significant relationships between
beat detection and RAN, phonological memory, phonological
awareness, reading, spelling, and nonword reading. On the rapid
spectrotemporal integration hypothesis, significant relationships
with phonological processing and literacy would be expected also
for the RFD and the dogcar-horn TOJ tasks (group perfor-
mance shown in Figs. 3 and 4); this was the case, but the
relationships found were not as strong as those for the beat-
detection task (see Table 3). Both the RFD task and the
beat-detection task showed a significant relationship with math-
ematical ability, which was not predicted. This result could
reflect the short-term memory demands of the mental arithmetic
tasks in the standardized mathematical assessment used here.
If basic auditory processing is important in causing the pho-
nological deficit that characterizes developmental dyslexia, then
measures of basic auditory processing should predict reading,
spelling, and phonological ability even when age, nonverbal IQ,
and vocabulary are controlled. To determine predictive rela-
tionships, a series of four-step fixed-entry multiple regression
equations were computed on the data set (73 children). The
dependent variables were reading ability, spelling ability, non-
word reading, rime oddity, RAN, and PSTM. The independent
variables were (in a fixed order) (i) age, (ii) nonverbal IQ,
(iii) vocabulary, and (iv) an auditory-processing measure (beat
detection, RFD, or dogcar-horn TOJ). The beat-detection
measure accounted for an additional 25% of the variance in
reading and spelling in these stringent analyses (see Table 4).
The RFD measure did not predict spelling, but it did predict
reading and nonword reading, accounting for an additional 10
and 12% of the variance, respectively. The TOJ measure was less
sensitive, predicting a significant proportion of the variance in
reading (6%) only. All three measures predicted phonological
awareness and PSTM, but only the beat-detection measure
predicted RAN performance (see Table 4).
Whereas the RFD and TOJ tasks are thought to tap the ability
to detect rapid acoustic change (at a time scale of 40 ms), the
rise times that yield the perceptual experience of beats are
considerably longer in duration (up to 150 ms or more). To
determine whether there was overlap in the variance in reading
accounted for by the beat-detection and RFD tasks, a pair of
five-step multiple regression equations were computed, both
entering (i) age, (ii) nonverbal IQ, and (iii) vocabulary followed
by the two auditory measures in either order. When entered last,
the beat-detection measure accounted for an additional 19% of
the variance in reading (P 0.001). The RFD measure entered
last accounted for an additional 4% (P 0.02). A large
proportion of the variance in reading predicted by the RFD task
was clearly shared with the beat-detection task but not vice versa.
To determine whether individual differences in these basic
processing abilities still would be predictive of reading even when
Fig. 4. Performance on the RFD task by group. ISI, interstimulus interval.
Table 3. Partial correlations between the basic
auditory-processing measures and the experimental variables
controlling for age and WISC IQ
P-center slope Dogcar TOJ RFD
Reading 0.59* 0.27
Spelling 0.56* 0.25
Nonword reading 0.43* 0.20 0.42*
Mathematics 0.34
0.06 0.24
Oddity 0.43* 0.28
RAN 0.36
0.12 0.23
PSTM 0.36
P center 0.25
Dogcar-horn TOJ 0.25
RFD 0.32
*P 0.0001.
P 0.05.
P 0.01.
Table 2. Mean performance for the dyslexics and CA and RL
controls on the behavioral tasks
Dyslexics* CA match RL match
Oddity, % correct 46.9 (16.7) 74.2 (12.2) 53.5 (14.3)
PSTM, % phonemes
79.0 (8.8) 86.5 (5.1) 79.9 (10.0)
RAN mean speed, sec 36.7 (7.5) 29.1 (3.7) 34.6 (5.6)
standard score
92.7 (20.3) 114.6 (16.0) 94.4 (14.0)
Beat detection: slope 0.03 (0.04) 0.12 (0.08) 0.06 (0.05)
RFD task, % correct 75.7 (13.3) 88.6 (10.7) 72.3 (18.2)
Dogcar-horn TOJ:
0.03 (0.02) 0.04 (0.03) 0.03 (0.02)
Standard deviations are shown in parentheses.
*Dyslexics CA at P 0.05.
RL CA at P 0.05.
Table 4. Percentage of variance in reading, spelling, nonword
reading, phonological awareness (oddity), PSTM, and RAN
explained by the different independent variables in separate
xed-entry multiple-regression equations
Dependent variable
(columns show separate equations), R
Reading Spelling Nonword R Oddity PSTM RAN
Step 1: age 0.09* 0.03 0.01 0.00 0.00 0.11*
Step 2: blocks 0.05
0.04 0.04 0.13* 0.00 0.05
Step 3: vocabulary 0.11* 0.07 0.02 0.04 0.05 0.00
Step 4: P center 0.25
0.12* 0.08*
Step 4: RFD 0.10* 0.04 0.12* 0.09* 0.13* 0.01
Step 4: Dogcar
0.05 0.03 0.06
Steps 13 were always the same (age, nonverbal IQ, and vocabulary). Step
4 was a basic auditory-processing variable (P centers, RFD, or dogcar TOJ).
*P 0.01.
P 0.05.
P 0.001.
www.pnas.orgcgidoi10.1073pnas.122368599 Goswami et al.
phonological awareness was controlled, a second pair of five-step
multiple regression equations were computed, entering (i) age,
(ii) nonverbal IQ, (iii) vocabulary, (iv) oddity, and (v) beat
detection or RFD. Here only beat detection remained a signif-
icant predictor of reading, accounting for an additional 9% of the
variance (P 0.001, the oddity measure at step four accounted
for 31% of the variance in reading).
Beat Detection in Young Early Readers and Normally Developing
As a further test of the hypothesis that AM-driven beat
detection is associated with the phonological determinants of
reading ability, we also assessed beat detection in a group of
young early readers who had learned to read without parental
instruction before entering school (see ref. 23). These children,
now aged 11, had taught themselves to read on the basis of their
superior phonological skills at age 4. Theoretically, these supe-
rior phonological skills may have developed at least partly
because of excellent rhythm perception (i.e., enhanced ability to
perceive beats in amplitude-modulated sequences). Compared
with control children from the same longitudinal study, the
young early readers showed greater sensitivity to beats, with
significantly sharper psychometric functions [young early read-
ers, mean slope ⫽⫺0.14 (SD 0.06), matched controls ⫽⫺0.10
(SD 0.04), P 0.04]. Sensitivity to AM was also significantly
related to reading progress in this cohort, both in terms of
reading comprehension (r ⫽⫺0.42) and development of the
orthographic lexicon (word chains test, r ⫽⫺0.43).
Our hypothesis was that the potential deficits in AM and
frequency-modulation detection in dyslexic individuals reported
by other groups (see refs. 15 and 16) might relate to deficits in
the processing of acoustic structure at the level of the syllable.
This processing is best described as rhythm detection. If this
version of a syllabic hypothesis is correct, then children with
phonological developmental dyslexia should be characterized by
poorer AM beat detection. This hypothesis was supported.
Dyslexic children showed significantly inferior detection of AM
beats compared with controls, and children with superior liter-
acy acquisition showed significantly superior detection of AM
beats. This report demonstrates a developmental continuum in
a basic auditory-processing ability (beat detection) from dyslexic
to exceptional child readers.
Theoretically, the detection of beats in AM sequences such as
those used here corresponds to the detection of ‘‘perceptual
centers’’ (P centers) in acoustic signals. P centers are the
perceptual moments of occurrence in speech (28) and musical
(29) sounds. Determined by the onsets of signals (30), P centers
are associated in speech with rapid increases of midband spectral
energy, typically occurring around the onset of a vowel (31).
From a speech-development perspective therefore, they consti-
tute a nonspeech-specific mechanism for segregating syllable
onsets and rhymes. Their accurate detection should be important
for the quality of phonological representation. In line with this
hypothesis, beat detection was shown to be related to individual
differences in phonological processing, although the strongest
relationships found were for reading and spelling progress. Beat
detection was a significant predictor of literacy even when
phonological processing was controlled, which could reflect
developmental factors. Stronger relationships between beat de-
tection and phonological processing might be found in younger
children who are just beginning to read. Note that because
beatsP centers are a consequence of the processing of complex
sound, both speech and nonspeech, it is difficult to argue that
differences in such sensitivity are a product of reading acquisi-
tion. Nevertheless, this possibility cannot be ruled out on the
basis of the current data.
Working from the association of beats in a perceptual se-
quence and P centers, our hypothesis is that the primary
auditory-processing deficit in dyslexia is related to P-center
processing of speech and nonspeech sounds. AM rise time
contributes to this perceptual primitive, and thus other observed
auditory deficits (e.g., auditory-stream segregation and back-
ward masking; refs. 3234) may arise in part because the stimuli
used in these judgement tasks of necessity have P centers. A
P-center hypothesis also can explain dyslexic childrens difficul-
ties in producing speech in time with a metronome and finger-
tapping in time with a metronome or an internally generated
rhythm (35, 36). It further explains why a focus on rhyme and
rhythm in preschool (e.g., clapping out nursery rhymes, which in
effect gives children practice in coordinating a manual rhythm
with the P centers of certain syllables) is important for later
literacy development across languages (37, 38). Note, however,
that the potential P-center deficit in dyslexia is a subtle one. The
deficit is not sufficient to interfere markedly with the acquisition
of spoken language, although spoken-language processing in
metalinguistic tasks remains effortful and slow. More serious
deficits in P-center perception theoretically should cause
spoken- as well as written-language impairments of the kind
found in specific language impairment.
In the current study, two measures of rapid spectrotemporal
integration (RSI) were also administered to the dyslexic children
and their controls. These two tasks were highly correlated and
were both performed poorly by dyslexic children. These tasks
measure the importance of rapid changes in the signal, which
should affect the childs ability to detect changes in speech at the
segmental level (e.g., ‘‘p’’ vs. ‘‘b’’). The beat-detection task
measures the importance of the syllabic information given by
amplitude envelope onsets, which in speech affect suprasegmen-
tal attributes of the vowel onsets. Both aspects of auditory
processing seem to be poor in dyslexic children, but most of the
variance in reading accounted for by the RSI tasks is shared with
beat detection (although not vice versa). As children become
aware of onsets and rimes without being taught to read, we argue
that the ability to process amplitude envelope onsets accurately
may constitute the primary deficit in developmental dyslexia.
Detailed experiments, ideally across languages, are required to
test this hypothesis further.
We thank the children who participated in this research and their schools.
Research at the Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street
Hospital benefits from research and development funding received from
the National Health Service Executive.
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www.pnas.orgcgidoi10.1073pnas.122368599 Goswami et al.
... A number of studies have found a relation between musical rhythm processing and reading skills (see reviews : Ladányi et al. 2020;Nayak et al. 2021;Ozernov-Palchik and Patel 2018), which is thought to reflect the rhythmic nature of both music and language. The link between reading and rhythm has often been attributed to a common need for precise timing (e.g., Goswami et al. 2002;Huss et al. 2011;Kraus 2013b, 2014;Wolff 2002;Woodruff Carr et al. 2016). In the present work, we consider this idea in terms of the ability to maintain a stable oscillation and to flexibly adapt to changes in exogenous rhythms, as may be important when tracking acoustic features critical to developing robust phonological representations. ...
... Deficits in rhythmic skills have also been observed in populations with different types of reading deficits across different languages (Alcock et al. 2000a, b). Further studies have shown a consistent positive relationship between the deficits in clinical populations' reading ability and the deficits in their rhythmic ability (Corriveau and Goswami 2009;Goswami et al. 2002;Wolff 2002). For example, Alcock et al. (2000a, b) found that members of the KE family, in which a developmental disorder of speech and language is inherited, performed worse in rhythm perception/production tasks, but not in pitch and melody perception/production task, compared to the control group. ...
... The link between reading and rhythm has broadly been attributed to a common need for precise timing (e.g., Goswami et al. 2002;Huss et al. 2011;Kraus 2013b, 2014;Wolff 2002;Woodruff Carr et al. 2016). In the present work, we consider this idea in terms of the ability to maintain a stable oscillation and to flexibly adapt to changes in exogenous rhythms, as may be important when tracking acoustic features critical to developing robust phonological representations. ...
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A consistent relationship has been found between rhythmic processing and reading skills. Impairment of the ability to entrain movements to an auditory rhythm in clinical populations with language-related deficits, such as children with developmental dyslexia, has been found in both behavioral and neural studies. In this study, we explored the relationship between rhythmic entrainment, behavioral synchronization, reading fluency, and reading comprehension in neurotypical English- and Mandarin-speaking adults. First, we examined entrainment stability by asking participants to coordinate taps with an auditory metronome in which unpredictable perturbations were introduced to disrupt entrainment. Next, we assessed behavioral synchronization by asking participants to coordinate taps with the syllables they produced while reading sentences as naturally as possible (tap to syllable task). Finally, we measured reading fluency and reading comprehension for native English and native Mandarin speakers. Stability of entrainment correlated strongly with tap to syllable task performance and with reading fluency, and both findings generalized across English and Mandarin speakers.
... Interestingly, non-verbal auditory tasks may represent an alternative method to assess phonological difficulties. This idea has been supported by studies that explored the relationship between phonological processing and auditory perception (see the Rapid Auditory Processing theory -RAP, Farmer & Klein, 1995;Gaab et al., 2007;Tallal, 1980;Tallal & Gaab, 2006), detection of stressed metrical elements in language (see the Temporal Sampling hypothesis, Goswami et al., 2002;Huss et al., 2011), and rhythmic production conceived as a regular planned movement (see the Cerebellar theory, Nicolson et al., 2001aNicolson et al., , 2001bNicolson & Fawcett, 1990, 2011Nicolson et al., 1999). In other words, the adoption of non-verbal tasks allows to assess the children while overcoming the linguistic and orthographic gap that often prevents an unbiased evaluation of bilingual students (Everatt et al., 2000) and MLC. ...
... The ability to tap in entrainment with a metronome (Entrainment100bpm) was particularly relevant for the classification of those poor readers that can adequately perform the regular auditory version of the Go/No-Go task. The idea of a deficit in dyslexic readers in conceiving, organizing, and reproducing a simple rhythmical structure, i.e., a regular pattern, supports causal theories of DD concerning the perception of rapid spectro-temporal alterations of auditory stimuli (see the RAP theory by Tallal, 1980; see Tallal & Gaab, 2006), as well as rhythmical and temporal awareness of regular strong-weak patterns (see the Temporal Sampling hypothesis by Goswami et al., 2002;Huss et al., 2011). This can be said also for what concerns the Cerebellar theory (Nicolson et al., 2001b), if one considers the rhythmic motor production, and the ensuing implicit learning deficits (Gabay, Thiessen & Holt, 2015;Kahta & Schiff, 2016;Nigro et al., 2015). ...
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In this study, we validated the “ReadFree tool”: a computerized battery of 12 hierarchically organized tasks in the visual and auditory modalities, which do not imply reading. The tool has been developed to identify poor readers irrespective of their specific language background, thus, to be also suitable for Minority-Language Children (MLC).Each task's discriminant power was tested on 142 Italian-monolingual participants (8-13 years-old) that either presented a reading deficit (i.e., monolingual poor readers (mPR); N = 37) or not (i.e., monolingual good readers (mGR); N = 105). The performances at the discriminant tasks were analysed by means of a multivariate machine learning approach based on a classification and regression tree (CART) model to classify mPR versus mGR.To test the diagnostic accuracy of the ReadFree tool in MLC, we first compared reading and ReadFree tool performances in MLC (N = 68) with those in monolingual readers (mGR + mPR; N = 142). The two groups did not show any significant differences, suggesting that (i) the two samples had the same distribution of good and poor readers and (ii) the ReadFree tool can be used to test MLC without introducing any systematic bias associated with their language use experience and exposure. Secondly, the MLC’s CART classification of good and poor readers was compared to the one obtained by adopting clinical reading tests standardized on Italian monolingual children. Interestingly, the percentage of MLC evaluated as poor readers through the standardized reading tests was higher than the one produced by the ReadFree tool. This evidence supports the idea that reading tasks standardized also on MLC population are needed.
... Furthermore, syllables differ in their consonant onsets, which exhibit slower or faster rise times. Therefore, ART discrimination is likely to facilitate phoneme awareness in syllable onsets (Goswami et al., 2002(Goswami et al., , 2010. ...
... Contrary to our expectations, BAP did not exhibit a significant direct effect on PA. Theoretically, ART perception facilitates the identification of onset-rime boundaries (Goswami, 2003) and phoneme awareness in syllable onsets (Goswami et al., 2002(Goswami et al., , 2010, and frequency perception is important for phoneme discrimination (Loui et al., 2011). However, one explanation for the lack of effect might be that the mental lexicon is already mature regarding segmental information; thus, the effect of BAP found in childhood (Goswami et al., 2021) no longer exists in adulthood. ...
Prosodic sensitivity (PS) and phonological awareness (PA) are reading‐related predictors in children, which themselves might be affected by basic auditory processing (BAP). This study proposes a new model that considers possible relations between all three variables and reading. Skilled adult reading is examined to exclude possible developmental influences and obtain more information about mature reading. One hundred thirty‐eight German‐speaking adults (mean age: 26 years) completed three measures of BAP (frequency, intensity and amplitude rise time discrimination), two sentence‐based PS tasks, a PA task, and three word and nonword reading tasks. Structural equation modelling revealed a significant direct effect of PS on reading, a significant direct effect of BAP on PS and an indirect effect of BAP on reading via PS. The results strengthen the relevance of BAP skills and PS for reading in adults. What is already known about this topic PA is less important for predicting reading in more experienced readers and in transparent orthographies. PS contributes directly and/or indirectly to reading in children. Little is known how PS contributes to reading in skilled adult readers. BAP skills are associated with PS, PA and reading. What this paper adds A new model including the relations between BAP, PS, PA and reading in skilled adult readers is proposed. Sentence‐based stress sensitivity contributes directly to word‐level reading in skilled adult readers. BAP skills contribute directly to PS and indirectly via PS to reading. Implications for theory, policy or practice PS should be considered as an important factor in adult reading. PS is influenced by BAP. PA no longer has informative value for skilled reading.
... It has been found that people are born with a predisposition to pick up the rhythmic features of the mother tongue (Cutler & Mehler, 1993), which helps to segment the speech continuum into words, facilitating access to lexical representations. The influence of prosodic processing on reading skills has also been demonstrated (Goswami et al., 2002;Gutiérrez-Fresneda et al., 2021). ...
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The process of teaching and learning to read has evolved in recent decades from an act centred on decoding action to a task of interaction between the reader and the text in which the reader's knowledge, goals and interests play an important role. In this sense, the importance of acquiring both specific vocabulary and reading skills will enable the mastery of the communicative conventions related to a specific context. Achieving the skills and competences necessary for academic and professional success implies that students take an active role in relation to the text in order to acquire coherent meaning from their reading. In contrast to this, the reality is that the resources used in the classroom with students to practise reading comprehension tend to focus on providing answers to a series of questions, preferably of a literal nature, through school texts. However, little work has been done on how students access textual information through teaching approaches that require active learning and stimulate the ability to think through expository texts in different languages (Spanish and English in this work). The objective of this study was to compare the level of written comprehension of two groups of students in the fifth year of Primary Education. One that worked on the elaboration of different types of questions using texts present in daily life in a cooperative way and another that exercised the written comprehension, with the same texts, answering different questions given by the teachers. A total of 116 pupils between 10 and 11 years of age (M = 10.62; SD = 0.43) participated in the study, of whom 48.7% were boys and 51.3% girls. The data collected point to the benefit of using this alternative methodology for the improvement of reading, and thus this teaching model is recommended to facilitate the learning of reading comprehension at different educational levels. RESUMEN El proceso de enseñar y aprender a leer ha evolucionado en las últimas décadas desde un acto centrado en la acción decodificadora a una tarea de interacción entre el lector y el texto en la que los conocimientos, objetivos e intereses del lector juegan un papel importante. En este sentido, la importancia de adquirir tanto vocabulario específico como habilidades de lectura permitirá el dominio de las convenciones comunicativas relevantes para un contexto específico. El logro de las habilidades y competencias necesarias para el éxito académico y profesional implica que los estudiantes asuman un papel activo en el texto para adquirir un significado coherente a partir de su lectura. En contraposición a este hecho, la realidad es que la diversidad de recursos que se utilizan en el aula con los estudiantes para ejercitar la comprensión lectora tiende a centrarse en dar respuesta a una serie de preguntas, preferentemente de carácter literal, a través de textos escolares. Sin embargo, se ha trabajado poco sobre cómo los estudiantes acceden a la información textual a través de propuestas didácticas que exigen un aprendizaje activo y estimulan la capacidad de pensar a través de textos expositivos en diferentes idiomas (español e inglés). El objetivo de este estudio fue comparar el nivel de comprensión escrita de dos grupos de alumnos de quinto año de Educación Primaria, uno que trabajaba en la elaboración de preguntas de diferente tipo utilizando textos presentes en la vida cotidiana de forma cooperativa y otro que ejercitó la comprensión escrita, con los mismos textos, respondiendo a diferentes preguntas dadas por los docentes. Participaron en el estudio un totalde 116 estudiantes entre 10 y 1 Corresponding author · Email: Gutiérrez Fresneda, Raúl and Planelles Iváñez, Montserrat. 2022. Effects of the development of reading comprehension questions on learning improvement. Revista de lenguas para fines específicos 28.1, pp. 61-74 · Paper 62 11 años (M = 10,62; DT = 0,43), de los cuales el 48,7% eran niños y el 51,3% niñas. Los datos recabados dan especial relevancia a este tipo de metodologías para la mejora de la lectura, por lo que se recomienda este modelo de enseñanza para facilitar el aprendizaje de la comprensión lectora en los diferentes niveles educativos. Palabras clave: comprensión lectora, aprender a leer con fines específicos, decodificación, formulación de preguntas, aprendizaje cooperativo.
... In speech, vowels are marked with a loudness peak (Goswami, 2003;Wood & Terrell, 1998). Sensitivity to vowel occurrence facilitates the detection of onset-rime boundaries, which is crucial for reading (Goswami et al., 2002;Holliman et al., 2012;Wood et al., 2009). Onset-rime is more regular in English than grapheme-phoneme correspondence (Ziegler & Goswami, 2005); therefore, awareness of onset-rime contributes to reading development by facilitating the use of phonemic similarities/analogies across words Wood et al., 2009). ...
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There are contradictory findings in the literature about prosodic sensitivity’s contribution to reading. In this study, we examined whether prosodic sensitivity makes a unique contribution to different reading outcomes in German after controlling for the effects of phonological awareness. Word reading, nonword reading and sentence reading as well as phonological awareness (PA), prosodic sensitivity (PS), and nonverbal IQ were assessed in a sample of N = 207 8- to 10-year-old German-speaking children in third grade. Results showed that after controlling for PA, PS was predictive of only sentence reading. A commonality analysis further showed that PS and PA share about 22% of the explained variance ( R ² = .13) in sentence reading, while PS uniquely contributes 18% and PA 60% of this variance. The results indicate that PS is more strongly related to reading tasks with semantic demands.
... Rhythm, as also other researchers have claimed (Goswami et al., 2002;Ladányi et al., 2020), is a key to understand what goes awry in individuals with dyslexia. The production and processing of rhythm is reported to be impaired in individuals with dyslexia (Ladányi et al., 2020).Relatedly, a body of research has uncovered correlations between rhythmic skills, language, reading and motor activities (Caccia & Lorusso, 2021;Colling et al., 2017;Flaugnacco et al., 2014;Gordon et al., 2015;Guasti et al. 2017;Lee et al., 2020;Pagliarini et al., 2015Pagliarini et al., , 2020Politimou et al., 2019). ...
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It is well-recognized that individuals with dyslexia may exhibit a broad range of deficits that go beyond reading itself. One line of research has uncovered impairments in the production and processing of rhythm in individuals with dyslexia. There is also a growing body of evidence that individual differences in rhythmic skills explain variability in reading, language and motor abilities in individuals with and without dyslexia. In this opinion article, we offer a new theoretical approach to the nature of the impaired rhythmic mechanisms associated with dyslexia. Specifically, we propose that the reading, language and motor impairments associated with dyslexia may be,in part, attributed to a deficit in anticipation i.e., a component of the rhythmic behaviour. This hypothesis will be referred to as the Inefficient Anticipation Hypothesis.
... RRT's foundation lies within the fact that children with dyslexia fail to identify suprasegmental speech cues, namely, rhythm, pitch, and stress [45,46], prior to showing weaknesses in manipulating segmental cues, this being an essential ability to acquire graphemephoneme correspondences [47]. RRT might support children in segmenting hierarchical acoustic rhythm structures in language connected to phonological units by stressing syllables and on-set-rimes. ...
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Based on the transfer effects of music training on the phonological and reading abilities of children with dyslexia, a computerized rhythmic intervention—the Rhythmic Reading Training (RRT)—was developed, in which reading exercises are combined with a rhythmic synchronization task. This rehabilitation program was previously tested in multiple controlled clinical trials, which confirmed its effectiveness in improving the reading skills of children and adolescents with dyslexia. In order to assess the specific contribution of the visual component of the training, namely, the presence of a visual cue supporting rhythmic synchronization, a controlled experimental study was conducted. Fifty-eight students with dyslexia aged 8 to 13 years were assigned to three conditions: (a) RRT auditory and visual condition, in which a visual cue was synchronized with the rhythmic stimulation; (b) RRT auditory-only condition, in which the visual cue was excluded; (c) no intervention. Comparisons of the participants’ performance before, after, and 3 months after the end of the intervention period revealed the significant immediate and long-term effect of both RRT conditions on reading, rapid naming, phonological, rhythmic, and attentional abilities. No significant differences were found between visual and auditory conditions, therefore showing no additional contribution of the visual component to the improvements induced by the RRT. Clinical Trial ID: NCT04995991.
... Huss and colleagues (2011) have shown that dyslexics have lower performance than normal achieving readers on tasks involving musical metrical structure. This is supported by a range of studies showing that they have difficulties with keeping a beat (Corriveau et al., 2007;Corriveau & Goswami, 2009;Goswami et al., 2002;Tierney & Kraus, 2013;Wolff et al., 1990). While they have impaired rhythmic processing skills, especially for rhythm production, they have normal pitch processing skills (Overy, 2000;Overy et al., 2003). ...
There is accruing evidence which indicates that actively making music can contribute to the enhancement of a range of non-musical skills and lead to other beneficial outcomes.
La dyslexie et la dysorthographie sont des troubles spécifiques de l’apprentissage/acquisition de la lecture et de l’écriture. Cette recherche porte sur « la dyslexie et la dysorthographie : répercussion sur l’apprentissage/acquisition des langues secondes chez les élèves du secondaire au Burkina Faso ». Les résultats de ce travail permettent de comprendre l’influence de cette dyslexie et de cette dysorthographie sur l’apprentissage/acquisition des langues secondes chez ces élèves. L’étude identifie les difficultés d’apprentissage/acquisition des langues chez ces apprenants, analyse la relation entre ces potentielles difficultés. Par une démarche qualitative et quantitative, nous avons utilisé des outils de diagnostics, choisi un échantillon de trente-deux (32) personnes sur lesquelles nous avons fait passer des épreuves de lecture et d’écriture. Cela a constitué notre base de données. Les résultats révèlent que la dysorthographie est plus fréquente que la dyslexie chez les apprenants enquêtés. Aussi, beaucoup de difficultés sont observées dans l’apprentissage/acquisition des langues secondes en rapport avec les troubles dyslexiques et dysorthographiques.
Background: Enjoyment plays a key role in the success and feasibility of serious gaming interventions. Unenjoyable games will not be played, and in the case of serious gaming, learning will not occur. Therefore, a so-called GameFlow model has been developed, which intends to guide (serious) game developers in the process of creating and evaluating enjoyment in digital (serious) games. Regarding language learning, a variety of serious games targeting specific language components exist in the market, albeit often without available assessments of enjoyment or feasibility. Objective: This study evaluates the enjoyment and feasibility of a tablet-based, serious story-listening game for kindergarteners, developed based on the principles of the GameFlow model. This study also preliminarily explores the possibility of using the game to foster language comprehension. Methods: Within the framework of a broader preventive reading intervention, 91 kindergarteners aged 5 years with a cognitive risk for dyslexia were asked to play the story game for 12 weeks, 6 days per week, either combined with a tablet-based phonics intervention or control games. The story game involved listening to and rating stories and responding to content-related questions. Game enjoyment was assessed through postintervention questionnaires, a GameFlow-based evaluation, and in-game story rating data. Feasibility was determined based on in-game general question response accuracy (QRA), reflecting the difficulty level, attrition rate, and final game exposure and training duration. Moreover, to investigate whether game enjoyment and difficulty influenced feasibility, final game exposure and training duration were predicted based on the in-game initial story ratings and initial QRA. Possible growth in language comprehension was explored by analyzing in-game QRA as a function of the game phase and baseline language skills. Results: Eventually, data from 82 participants were analyzed. The questionnaire and in-game data suggested an overall enjoyable game experience. However, the GameFlow-based evaluation implied room for game design improvement. The general QRA confirmed a well-adapted level of difficulty for the target sample. Moreover, despite the overall attrition rate of 39% (32/82), 90% (74/82) of the participants still completed 80% of the game, albeit with a large variation in training days. Higher initial QRA significantly increased game exposure (β=.35; P<.001), and lower initial story ratings significantly slackened the training duration (β=-0.16; P=.003). In-game QRA was positively predicted by game phase (β=1.44; P=.004), baseline listening comprehension (β=1.56; P=.002), and vocabulary (β=.16; P=.01), with larger QRA growth over game phases in children with lower baseline listening comprehension skills (β=-0.08; P=.04). Conclusions: Generally, the story game seemed enjoyable and feasible. However, the GameFlow model evaluation and predictive relationships imply room for further game design improvements. Furthermore, our results cautiously suggest the potential of the game to foster language comprehension; however, future randomized controlled trials should further elucidate the impact on language comprehension.
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The relationship between sensory sensitivity and reading performance was examined to test the hypothesis that the orthographic and phonological skills engaged in visual word recognition are constrained by the ability to detect dynamic visual and auditory events. A test battery using sensory psychophysics, psychometric tests, and measures of component literacy skills was administered to 32 unselected 10-year-old primary school children. The results suggest that children's sensitivity to both dynamic auditory and visual stimuli are related to their literacy skills. Importantly, after controlling for intelligence and overall reading ability, visual motion sensitivity explained independent variance in orthographic skill but not phonological ability, and auditory FM sensitivity covaried with phonological skill but not orthographic skill. These results support the hypothesis that sensitivity at detecting dynamic stimuli influences normal children's reading skills. Vision and audition separately may affect the ability to extract orthographic and phonological information during reading.
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Words presented with regular acoustic onsets are not perceptually regular. The requirements for perceived regularity were investigated, and the perceptual center (P-center) of a word was defined as its psychological moment of occurrence. Some properties of these perceptual centers have been empirically determined, and the range of their applicability is sketched. In particular, it is already clear that temporal alignment of P-centers is a relevant variable in dichotic presentation of speech. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The authors compared the effects of 3 kindergarten intervention programs on at-risk children's subsequent reading and spelling skills. From a sample of 726 screened kindergarten children, 138 were selected as children potentially at risk for dyslexia and randomly assigned to 1 of 3 training conditions: (a) letter-sound training, (b) phonological awareness training, and (c) combined training in phonological awareness and letter knowledge. A control group of 115 unselected ("normal") kindergarten children was recruited to evaluate the training effects. Results indicated that the combined training yielded the strongest effects on reading and spelling in Grades 1 and 2. Thus, these findings confirm the phonological linkage hypothesis in that combining phonological awareness training with instruction in letter-sound knowledge has more powerful effects on subsequent literacy achievement than phonological awareness training alone. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Discusses disparate views of the basic unit of seriation in speech. The belief that transcriptions constitute a valid means of investigating units such as phoneme-like segments, which were originally inferred from alphabetic symbols, implies that alphabets arose spontaneously given a natural cognitive predisposition for deriving segments. Suggested compatibility between aspects of speech errors and phonological segments can be questioned on the basis of some inviolate patterns in error sequences. The presumed accuracy of transcriptions is doubtful, as shown by observations of errors captured on X-ray films; in fact, aspects that are crucial to a definition of basic units of seriation may be misrepresented by alphabetic notations. Restricting the debate to psycholinguistic evidence overlooks segmentations which may more aptly define direct relationships between production, perception, and units of speech processing. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Tested the hypothesis that the experiences that a child has with rhyme before he/she goes to school might have an effect on later success in learning to read and write. Two experimental situations were used: a longitudinal study and an intensive training program in sound categorization or other forms of categorization. 368 children's skills at sound categorization were measured before they started to read and then related to their progress in reading, spelling, and mathematics over 4 yrs. At the end of initial testing and during the 4 yrs Ss' IQ, reading, spelling, and mathematical abilities were tested. There were high correlations between initial sound categorization scores and Ss' reading and spelling over 3 yrs. At the onset of study, 65 Ss who could not read and had low sound-categorization skills were divided into 4 groups. Two received 2 yrs of training in categorizing sounds. Group 1 was taught that the same word shared common beginning, middle, and end sounds with other words and could be categorized in different ways. Group 2 was also taught how each common sound was represented by a letter of the alphabet. The other groups served as controls. Group 3 was taught only that the same word could be classified in several ways. At the end of training, Group 1 was ahead of Group 3 and Group 2 was ahead of Group 1 in reading and spelling. This suggests that training in sound categorization is more effective when it also involves an explicit connection with the alphabet. Results support the hypothesis. (5 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
This paper reports the results from a study investigating the level of phonological sensitivity, letter knowledge and reading ability of two groups of children between the ages of 5 and 7 years. One group of children were identified as being fluent readers at the age of 5 years, before they had begun school. These children were paired with a group of children of the same age and vocabulary development but who were not yet reading. The performance of the two groups of children on the tasks measuring phonological sensitivity confirmed the view of Stanovich (1986, 1992) that phonological sensitivity lies on a continuum from shallow to deep. Shallow levels of phonological sensitivity, tapped by rhyming tasks, seem to be necessary for reading to progress whereas deeper levels of sensitivity develop later and have a more reciprocal relationship to reading progress.
Morton, Marcus, and Frankish (1976) defined “perceptual center,” or “P-center,” as a neutral term to describe that which is regular in a perceptually regular sequence of speech sounds. This paper describes a paradigm for the determination of P-center location and the effect of various acoustic parameters on empirically determined P-center locations. It is shown that P-center location is affected by both initial consonant duration and, secondarily, subsequent vowel and consonant duration. A simple two-parameter model involving the duration of the whole stimulus is developed and gives good performance in predicting P-center location. The application of this model to continuous speech is demonstrated. It is suggested that there is little value in attempting to determine any single acoustic or articulatory correlate of P-center location, or in attempting to define P-center location absolutely in time. Rather, these results indicate that P-centers are a property of the whole stimulus and reflect properties of both the production and perception of speech.
The perceptual onset of a musical tone can be defined as the moment in time at which the stimulus is first perceived. In the present experiments, a simple threshold model for the perceptual onset was applied. A paradigm was used in which a sequence of tones had to be adjusted in such a way that the onsets were perceived at equally spaced moments in time. In Experiment 1, the threshold model was applied in a design in which the rise times of the tones were varied. We concluded that the perceptual onsets of the tones can, indeed, be defined as the times at which the envelopes pass a relative threshold of 15 dB below the maximum level of the tones (82 dB). In Experiment 2, the maximum levels of the tones were varied from 37 to 77 dB. The results show that there is a shift in the relative threshold, but that this shift is small relative to the shift in the stimulus level. In Experiment 3, the effect of level above masked threshold on the perceptual onset was investigated in more detail by varying the level of a background noise. The results show that the relative threshold decreases with increasing level above masked threshold. The results from our experiments strongly suggest that the relative threshold is linearly dependent on the level above masked or absolute threshold and that a 7-dB increment of this level results in a 1-dB relative threshold decrement. The threshold model is compared with a current temporal integration model for the perceptual onset of tones. It is shown that our data cannot be adequately explained by temporal integration. Our experimental results suggest that adaptation of the hearing mechanism to a certain relative stimulus level is responsible for perceptual onset. The applicability of our threshold model in various realistic musical situations is discussed.