An Overview Study of Cochlear-Implanted Children's Early Language Development in Guangdong Province


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date13 Sep 2022


The purposes of this thesis are twofold: 1) to investigate the language environment of hearing-reconstructed children with cochlear-implantation, and 2) to explore their perception of nominals and conjunctions in their early stages of language development. Children born with severe sensorineural hearing-loss (SNHL) in Mainland China are now provided with government funding to receive cochlear implantation surgery as an early intervention procedure to reconstruct their hearing and language abilities. Due to the appointment system, the average age of SNHL children gaining their hearing ability is around 3-7 years old. Therefore, the verbal language input has been postponed greatly for them compared to normal developed ones, which might cause interesting social and linguistic effects in their delayed first language acquisition. Naturally, two major questions arise: 1) do cochlear-implanted (CI) children experience different types of language and social environment in the course of language development compared to normal developed children in the same region? and 2) What are their interpretation preferences of nominals and conjunctions in the initial stage of acquiring verbal language?

The first major research question was answered by a series of background information check questionnaires, parent-professional workshop observations, and an over 8-month long longitudinal case study on CI children’s parent-child interaction patterns. We have found out that, compared to normal developed children, CI children generally come from lower socio-economic backgrounds with weaker educated parents. The habit of overusing made-up sign languages caused by their hearing-loss history and different degrees of emotional trauma brought by the cochlear implantation surgeries might have caused negative impacts on their social skills and motivations of acquiring their first language. Last but not least, a more parent-dominated parent-children relationship in daily communication was found to bring positive effects on CI children’s language delayed development.

The second major research question was answered by a series of language interpretation experiments. It was found that CI children, when first encountering an unfamiliar bare Chinese nominal, would tend to interpret it as a reference to a kind, rather than an individual. Their interpretation preference of bare nominals might have influenced their perception of conjunctions. Test results reflected that CI children had a normal-like interpretation of predicate conjunctions, and experienced difficulties when interpreting nominal conjunctions (N-conj.-N and NP-conj.-NP).

The findings in this thesis give an overall picture of CI children’s language environment and their initial status of first language acquisition.