A growing number of studies now suggest that sensitivity to the rhythmic patterning of speech (prosody) is implicated in successful reading acquisition. However, recent evidence suggests that prosody is not a unitary construct and that the different components of prosody (stress, intonation, and timing) operating at different linguistic levels (word, phrase, and sentence) may be related to reading development in different ways. Sixty-two five- to seven-year-old English-speaking children completed a newly developed, multi-component measure designed to assess several different aspects of prosodic sensitivity in a single, easily-administered task. The new measure was found to be sensitive to individual differences in prosodic sensitivity and participants’ overall scores were significantly correlated with measures of vocabulary, phonological awareness, phonological decoding, text reading accuracy, and reading comprehension. An exploratory factor analysis suggested that the multi-component measure of prosodic sensitivity distinguished between the processing of stress, intonation, and timing. The task also distinguished between word-level and sentence-level sensitivity to stress information. These findings add to the growing literature demonstrating a relationship between prosodic sensitivity and reading and represent a first step towards disentangling prosody and developing a more sophisticated understanding of its role in early reading development.
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This research was funded by a grant to ‘First Author’ from the British Academy. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the schools, teachers, parents, and children who participated in this research.
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Holliman, A.J., Williams, G.J., Mundy, I.R. et al. Beginning to disentangle the prosody-literacy relationship: a multi-component measure of prosodic sensitivity. Read Writ 27, 255–266 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-013-9443-6