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Morphosyntactic language skills in deaf children with a cochlear implant: a cross-linguistic study on Dutch and German

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Language development in deaf children

Cochlear implants (CIs) have helped countless deaf children learn to speak, allowing them to lead less challenging lives. But, there may still be differences in spoken language between such deaf children and normally-hearing children — a phenomenon that scientists have recently shed light on.

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Morphosyntax, or the way different forms of a word are related, is one of the more challenging aspects of learning a language. However, it was not known if this is more challenging for a child with a CI than a normally-hearing child.The EU-funded MORLAS project aimed to study the speech level of CI children entering primary school by examining their grasp of morphosyntax. The study included German- and Dutch-speaking children to see whether there was any variation between different languages.Researchers first developed a theoretical framework that quantified the differences in morphosyntactic structure between the two languages. This allowed them to compare results between German and Dutch children. The data collection protocols from the Dutch study group were adapted for the German part of the study.Data were collected from 10 CI children and 10 normally-hearing children in Flanders (Dutch), and 10 CI children and 30 normally-hearing children in Vienna (German). MORLAS found that only minor differences existed between German and Dutch children.For the most part, CI children showed the same learning patterns as normally-hearing children, with the exception of noun plural formation, where CI children lagged behind. This information will help educators and parents improve the linguistic development of children with CIs.

Keywords

Morphosyntax, cochlear implant, language development, deaf children

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