Phonology, prosody, and reading skills: A mismatch negativity experiment

No Thumbnail Available
Fotidzis, Tess Stamatia
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
Reading is a fundamental skill for success in everyday life. Unfortunately, 5-20% of all children in the U.S. experience some form of reading difficulty (RD), such as dyslexia. Prosody—i.e., the suprasegmental features of phonology—helps to convey the meaning of speech beyond actual spoken words and has been implicated to facilitate language comprehension. Increasing evidence supports a link between prosodic sensitivity (PS) and reading skills and suggests PS may be predictive of reading outcomes. However, the role of PS in reading comprehension has not been well established. Likewise, research remains sparse on the interactions of the neurocognitive systems underlying the components of prosody and reading. Furthermore, the majority of studies that have examined prosodic sensitivity primarily focused on the rhythmic or metrical aspects, while intonation is not always accounted for. As such, the current dissertation research addresses this specific gap in the literature by focusing specifically on the intonation aspect of prosody and how it relates to reading comprehension skills in adult readers, after controlling for phoneme perception and vocabulary. To this end, the mismatch negativity (MMN) was recorded using the audio-morphing paradigm developed by Sammler and colleagues (2015) to measure neural sensitivity to auditory cues of phonemic or prosodic contrasts. Participants were also administered standardized behavioral measures of vocabulary knowledge and silent reading comprehension skills. Results showed that the intonation aspect of prosody statistically significantly relates to reading; however, the behavioral-EEG relationship was less clear, as there still are quite a few ways to examine the data before a behavioral-EEG relationship can be ruled out with any certainty. Findings of this study have potentially important implications for early identification and possible intervention for students at risk for RD. Most early reading interventions focus on the segmental aspects of phonology, while few programs specifically address this suprasegmental aspect. As such, these study findings fill this gap and contribute to a better understanding of what role these particular segmental and suprasegmental features of phonology play in reading and provide merit for subsequent EEG studies to further examine the relationship between the prosodic feature of intonation and reading.
Neurosciences, Linguistics, Reading instruction