Understanding Chinese sign language comprehension and text reading comprehension in Chinese deaf children with hearing impairment: The roles of vocabulary, prosody, working memory and executive function

Understanding Chinese sign language comprehension and text reading comprehension in Chinese deaf children with hearing impairment: The roles of vocabulary, prosody, working memory and executive function

First Author: Qinli Deng -- The University of Hong Kong
Additional authors/chairs: 
Shelley Xiuli Tong
Keywords: Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Executive Function, Working memory, Prosody, Text Comprehension
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose. This study investigated the roles of vocabulary, prosodic awareness, working memory, and executive function in sign language comprehension and text reading comprehension among Chinese deaf children in different grades.

Method. Sixty deaf children (26 children in grades 3-6; 34 children in grades 7-9) were tested on multiple tasks of working memory (verbal and non-verbal), executive function (inhibition, shifting, and updating), prosodic awareness (lexical tone, tone sandhi, and intonation), and the single tasks of nonverbal intelligence, vocabulary, sign language comprehension, and Chinese text reading comprehension.

Results. Executive function, working memory, and prosodic awareness were significantly correlated with Chinese text reading comprehension for children in grades 7-9 but not for children in grades 3-6. Sign language comprehension and work memory were significantly correlated with text reading comprehension for two groups. For children in grades 3-6, only sign vocabulary uniquely predicted sign language comprehension; sign language comprehension uniquely predicted text reading comprehension after controlling for age and IQ. In contrast, sign vocabulary and working memory uniquely accounted for the variance of sign language comprehension, while sign language comprehension and prosodic awareness uniquely accounted for the variance of Chinese text reading comprehension after controlling for age and IQ for children in grades 7-9.

Conclusions. These findings suggest that sign language comprehension and prosodic awareness are critical factors determining Chinese text reading comprehension, and underscore the importance of sign receptive vocabulary and working memory in sign language comprehension for Chinese deaf children.