"Nowadays, many profoundly deaf children are given access to auditory information by means of a cochlear implant (CI). Thanks to this device, these children are able to develop oral speech and language. However, there are still many open questions about the nature of speech and language skills of CI children. Previous research has focused mainly on perceptual achievements, while far less attention has been paid to speech and language production, i.e. to how well do CI children speak? Moreover, little is known about the “long term” development, i.e. what is the language achievement of CI children when they are at school age? This is especially relevant in view of the fact that more and more CI children are being integrated into the main stream school system.
The aim of this project is to investigate speech and language skills of CI children entering primary school. The project will focus on CI children’s achievements in a major aspect of language, its morphosyntax. Gaining command of the full range of morphosyntactic features of a language requires highly sophisticated processing abilities and still constitutes a major challenge even for normally hearing children when they enter primary school. Furthermore, the project will compare CI children’s speech and language skills in two different languages, Dutch and German. This cross-linguistic perspective will allow to see whether CI children’s achievements vary depending on the specific language the child is exposed to.
The study participants (10 CI children and 10 normally hearing peers, in each language) will be recruited from schools in Flanders (Belgium) and in Vienna (Austria). In both countries, children will be tested using a comparable research methodology and approach. The project will not only contribute to understanding the effects of a perceptual deficit on language learning, but will also help to develop standard language tests and adequate intervention programs for this new child population."
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