Effect of dialect on identification and severity of speech impairment in Indigenous Australian children

Bethany Toohill, Sharynne McLeod, Jane McCormack

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This study investigated the effect of dialectal difference on identification and rating of severity of speech impairment in children from Indigenous Australian backgrounds. The speech of 15 Indigenous Australian children identified by their parents/caregivers and teachers as having 'difficulty talking and making speech sounds' was assessed using the Diagnostic Evaluation of Articulation and Phonology. Fourteen children were identified with speech impairment on the Diagnostic Evaluation of Articulation and Phonology using Standard Australian English (AusE) as the target pronunciation; whereas 13 were identified using Australian Aboriginal English (AAE) as the target. There was a statistically significant decrease in seven children's severity classification and a statistically significant increase in all children's percentage of consonants, vowels and phonemes correct when comparing AAE with AusE. Features of AAE used by the children included /h/ insertion and deletion, primary stress on the first syllable and diphthongs alternating with short clear vowels. It is important that speech-language pathologists consider children's dialect as one component of culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-119
Number of pages19
JournalClinical Linguistics and Phonetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


Grant Number

  • FT0990588

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