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Abstract of the Thesis

Dr. Khirod Chandra Panda, Ph.D.

The study was conducted in two parts. In the first part, a diagnostic test of articulation in Odia language was developed and phonological developments in normal children were observed. Children’s phonological processes during the course of development and the age at which different phonemes acquired were noted. In the second part the phonological processes observed in mentally retarded children have been compared qualitatively with normal children in order to analyze whether the development in the retarded is delayed or deviant. The most frequently occurring phonological processes in the mentally retarded children had also been analyzed.

For the articulation test in Odia, 30 speech sounds in Odia language were considered for the study. A word list consisting of 165 words in initial and medial positions of a sound was prepared. Word final sounds were not taken because in Odia language the final speech sound always ends in a vowel. The words selected were meaningful, picturable, unambiguous and easy for the younger children to identify. 70 literate odia speaking adults in the age range of 20 to 30 years were given the word list and were asked to rate familiarity of words for younger children in 5 point scale, i.e., highly familiar, familiar, fairly familiar, just familiar and unfamiliar. Words rated highly familiar and familiar by at least 75% of the adults, i.e., 53, were considered for the articulation test. Finally, 57 words out of 165 words for 30 speech sounds were selected, which were picturized on 6”x4” cards.

The diagnostic test of articulation in Odia language was administered to 160 normal children in the age range of 2 to 6 years. The children were taken from 8 age groups with 6 months gap i.e., 2-2.6, 2.7-3.0, 3.1-3.6, 3.7-4.0 and so on and so forth. In each age group, 10 boys and 10 girls were taken. Each child was tested individually in different sessions. All the responses were audio-recorded for later qualitative and quantitative analysis.

Mastery of a particular speech sound was assumed to be achieved by a particular age group if 90% of the children in that age group articulated the sound properly in initial and medial positions of a word. The significance of mean difference between boys and girls in each age group was also found out by‘t’ tests. The gender difference was not significant for any of the age groups.

For phonological process analysis 120 words in 30 speech sounds were selected. For construction and preparation of word list, same procedures were adapted as discussed earlier. After the preparation of word list sounds were classified into different sound classes, i.e., nasals, stops, fricatives, affricates, laterals and aspirated stops. The children were asked to name the pictures and their responses were audio recorded and then, phonetically transcribed, independently by two speech pathologists. The following categories of errors were noted; final consonant deletion, cluster simplification, reduplication, velar assimilation, nasal assimilation, labial assimilation, backing and fronting.

In the present study nasal sounds were first to be acquired followed by unaspirated stops, laterals, fricatives, and aspirated stops. Similar results were also seen in the study of acquisition of speech sounds in other Indian languages. The findings of the present study were interpreted as supporting the biological model of phonological development (Locke, 1983). Analysis of the findings of the present study suggests that children have the adult sound pattern represented in their mental lexicon but due to motor insufficiency they are sometimes unable to produce a sound. In such case they seek to fill the gap by another nearest sound which they can articulate or by simply misarticulating the sound by substitution, omission, or distortion.

In the second part of the study, phonological developments of mentally retarded children were analyzed. The selected sample consisted of 37 mentally retarded boys and 27 mentally retarded girls. Among the boys the minimum chronological age was 4.5 years and maximum age was 13.9 years. Test administration and scoring were same as for the study with the normals. The format that was used for phonological process analysis in case of normals was also used for the retarded.

In case of retarded children, it was observed that the phonological processes involving various problems in articulation were more common compared to the normal children. The following characteristics were observed in the phonological development of the retarded children.

  • Articulation errors were more common in retarded children compared to that in the non retarded population.
  • Most frequent errors were deletion of consonants and cluster simplification.
  • Errors were inconsistent.
  • Patterns were similar to those of non-retarded children or children with functional delay.

A comparative analysis of phonological development of normal and MR children suggests that both the groups follow the same pattern and process of development but the rate of development in the MR children are slower compared to the normal children.