Annals of Dyslexia

, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 77–90 | Cite as

Auditory temporal structure processing in dyslexia: processing of prosodic phrase boundaries is not impaired in children with dyslexia

  • Eveline Geiser
  • Margaret Kjelgaard
  • Joanna A. Christodoulou
  • Abigail Cyr
  • John D. E. Gabrieli


Reading disability in children with dyslexia has been proposed to reflect impairment in auditory timing perception. We investigated one aspect of timing perception—temporal grouping—as present in prosodic phrase boundaries of natural speech, in age-matched groups of children, ages 6–8 years, with and without dyslexia. Prosodic phrase boundaries are characterized by temporal grouping of functionally related speech elements and can facilitate syntactic processing of speech. For example, temporary syntactic ambiguities, such as early-closure structures, are processed faster when prosodic phrase boundaries are present. We examined children’s prosodic facilitation by measuring their efficiency of sentence processing for temporary syntactic ambiguities spoken with (facilitating) versus without (neutral) prosodic phrase boundaries. Both groups of children benefited similarly from prosodic facilitation, displaying faster reaction times in facilitating compared to neutral prosody. These findings indicate that the use of prosodic phrase boundaries for speech processing is not impaired in children with dyslexia.


Children Dyslexia Grouping Phrase boundary Prosody Rhythm Syntax Timing 



This research was supported by a grant from the Ellison Medical Foundation. E. Geiser was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF; PBZHP1-123304) and the McGovern Institute at MIT. We thank Patricia Chang, Lisa Bloom, Jessica Chiew, David Driscoll, Katie Gilroy, Dorice Moise, Lisa Bloom, Lianne Grasso, Kristen Vecchio, Vickie Chan, Sarah Mackenzie, Colleen Witt, Melissa Boulay, Trish Collins, and Dan O’Young for assisting in participant recruitment and testing and Marry Faulkenstern for recording the sentences.

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Copyright information

© The International Dyslexia Association 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eveline Geiser
    • 1
  • Margaret Kjelgaard
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joanna A. Christodoulou
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Abigail Cyr
    • 1
  • John D. E. Gabrieli
    • 1
  1. 1.McGovern InstituteMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.MGH Institute of Health ProfessionsBostonUSA
  3. 3.Harvard Graduate School of EducationCambridgeUSA

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