What is the relationship between implicit prosody, sensitivity to speech prosody, and reading ability in children?

What is the relationship between implicit prosody, sensitivity to speech prosody, and reading ability in children?

First Author: Nosheen Gul -- Northern Illinois University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Marissa Bamberger; Lindsay Harris; Joanne Arciuli
Keywords: Individual Differences, Lexical Stress, Prosody, Reading development, speech perception
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: There is preliminary evidence that implicit prosody—the projection of rhythm and intonation onto text during silent reading—is related to reading ability in adults (Steinhauer & Friederici, 2001) and fourth-grade children (Kleiman et al., 1979). The present study sought to confirm these findings by investigating whether implicit prosody predicts word reading and passage comprehension in children when phonological awareness, age, and overt prosodic awareness (i.e., sensitivity to speech prosody) are controlled.

Method: Thirty children in grades 3-5 completed the following assessments:
• A proofreading task in which target words were misspelled in stressed or unstressed syllables, to assess implicit prosody;
• WRMT-III Word Identification subtest, to assess word-reading skill;
• WRMT-III Passage Comprehension subtest, to assess comprehension;
• WRMT-III Phonological Awareness subtest, to assess segmental phonological awareness;
• The Aliens Talking Underwater task (Arciuli, 2017), to assess overt prosodic awareness.

Results: Implicit prosody was correlated with several of the reading-related individual differences measures. It also contributed unique variance to word reading and comprehension in regression analyses when age, phonological awareness, and overt prosodic awareness were included in the models.

Conclusion: Recent research suggests that the use of naturalistic prosody during oral reading contributes to children’s comprehension. It has been suggested that implicit prosody is an outgrowth of oral prosody that develops as children transition from oral to silent reading (Kuhn et al., 2010). Our demonstration of a link between implicit prosody and reading ability is consistent with this view and suggests that implicit prosody may be an ultimate driver of comprehension.


1. Individual differences
2. Lexical Stress
3. Prosody
4. Reading development
5. Speech perception