Auditory processing, linguistic prosody awareness, and word reading in Mandarin-speaking children learning English


This study examined language-specific links among auditory processing, linguistic prosody awareness, and Mandarin (L1) and English (L2) word reading in 61 Mandarin-speaking, English-learning children. Three auditory discrimination abilities were measured: pitch contour, pitch interval, and rise time (rate of intensity change at tone onset). Linguistic prosody awareness was measured three ways: Mandarin tone perception, English stress perception, and English stress production. A Chinese character recognition task was the Mandarin L1 reading metric. English L2 word reading was assessed by English real word reading and nonword decoding tasks. The importance of the auditory processing measures to reading was different in the two languages. Pitch contour discrimination predicted Mandarin L1 word reading and rise time discrimination predicted English L2 word reading, after controlling for age and nonverbal IQ. For the prosodic and phonological measures, Mandarin tone perception, but not rhyme awareness, predicted Chinese character recognition after controlling for age and nonverbal IQ. In contrast, English rhyme awareness predicted more unique variance in English real word reading and nonword decoding than did English stress perception and production. Linguistic prosody awareness appears to play a more important role in L1 word reading than phonological awareness; while the reverse seems true for English L2 word reading in Mandarin-speaking children. Taken together, auditory processing, language-specific linguistic prosody awareness, and phonological awareness play different roles in L1/L2 reading, reflecting different prosodic and segmental structures between Mandarin and English.

Publication Title

Reading and Writing