Non-word repetition in children learning Yélî Dnye
In non-word repetition (NWR) studies, participants are presented auditorily with an item that is phonologically legal but lexically meaningless in their language, and asked to repeat this item as closely as possible. NWR scores are thought to reflect some aspects of phonological development, saliently a perception-production loop supporting flexible production patterns. In this study, we report on NWR results among children learning Yélî Dnye, an isolate spoken on Rossel Island in Papua New Guinea. Results make three contributions that are specific, and a fourth that is general. First, we found that non-word items containing typologically frequent sounds are repeated without changes more often that non-words containing typologically rare sounds, above and beyond any within-language frequency effects. Second, we documented rather weak effects of item length. Third, we found that age has a strong effect on NWR scores, whereas there are weak correlations with gender, maternal education, and birth order. Fourth, we weave our results with those of others to serve the general goal of reflecting on how NWR scores can be compared across participants, studies, languages, and populations, and the extent to which they shed light on the factors universally structuring variation in phonological development at a global and individual level.
Keywords: literacy, phonology, non-word repetition, Papuan, non-industrial, non-urban, comparative, typology, markedness