Collaboration to Create Functional Word Lists for Languages of the South Pacific

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background: Cultural and linguistic diversity provide unique environments that shape communication learning opportunities for children in South Pacific nations (e.g., Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, etc.). However, we know very little about the acquisition of indigenous or exogenous languages within these nations. Much of the knowledge concerning adult communication targets for South Pacific languages is held by communication specialists outside of the speech-language pathology field (e.g., linguists, education specialist). Speech-language pathologists working with children in these nations need ready access to information on adult language/dialect targets so that they can identify communication delay and disorder from difference. They also need culturally valid tools to explore and document children’s language development. Some of the preliminary work required to develop culturally and linguistically valid tools for assessment of children’s speech production has been by completed by Hopf and colleagues (2016, 2017); including, validation of the Intelligibility in Context Scale (ICS; McLeod, Harrison & Harrison, 2012; seee Hopf, McLeod & McDonagh, 2017) and completion of a contrastive analysis of the phonologies of two major Fiji English dialects with three inner-circle international English dialects (Hopf, McLeod, & Geraghty, 2016). Further work is required to ensure culturally valid tools are available for assessment of children’s speech and language skills. Aims: (1) To detail a culturally valid procedure for creation of of culturally and linguistically valid expert consensus functional word lists for languages of Fiji that may be used in the future to collect speech and/or language acquisition data for South Pacific Languages. (2) to create a list of 50 functional words for young children that may be used in speech intervention for multilingual children. Method: International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children’s Speech (McLeod & Verdon, 2018) instructions on how to create word lists were adapted. Specifically, an iterative process of vocabulary list generation by multiple stakeholders was followed. Participants (n =32) were identified as potential early childhood communication and/or language experts for Fiji through literature search and referral from country contacts already known to the author due to her 10+ years working in Fiji. Talanoas (akin to semi-structured interviews, but always set in a non-threatening context where all feel comfortable) were held between March and September 2019. Participants generated word lists of vocabulary (between 15 and 100+ words) that they believed were: (1) spoken by typically developing Fijian children upon school entry (i.e., by 6 years of age); and (2) culturally valid across diverse geographical and linguistic contexts within Fiji. Individual lists were compared. Individual word lists were compared. The number of times a word was listed by multiple participants was collated. The top 50 words were identified. Results: Participants generated 268 discrete items. Most common words included: (1) nouns (n=110) (e.g., water, dalo, dog, horse, milk); (2) verbs (n=-58) (e.g., go, come, eat, sleep, bathe); (3) adjectives (n=31) (e.g., hungry, nice, good, bad, mine); (4) names/pronouns (n=20) (e.g., Dad, Grandmother, Mum, Grandfather, uncle); (5) typical interjections (n=9) (e.g., no, don't, yes, goodbye, hello). The top-50 words that can be readily pictured were identified.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Nov 2020
EventSpeech Pathology Australia National Conference - Online conference, Darwin, Australia
Duration: 30 May 202102 Jun 2021


ConferenceSpeech Pathology Australia National Conference

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