Speech and language are two important areas of child's development and their progress is most evident at preschool age. Even though this development takes place within specific norms, it is influenced by various factors – one of them being recurrent otitis media.
This is the very field I focus on in my thesis – the influence of recurrent otitis media on phonological development of preschool children.
In my thesis, I first present basic ear anatomy, possible hearing impairments and hearing basics, followed by an introduction of phonetics, phonology and phonological development in children. I dedicate a separate chapter to speech transcription, which makes up an important part of my thesis.
The largest part of the thesis has been set aside for the research - 18 children have been included (6 of them with recurrent otitis media and 12 unaffected by it) aged between 4 years and 7 months, and 6 years and 1 month. They have all been tested using “The phonological development test” that is the product of an international project called Cross-Linguistic study of protracted phonological (speech) development in children. I have recorded, transcribed (according to IPA) and analysed their answers.
I was interested in the way speech realisation of various words differs between the children with recurrent otitis media and those unaffected by it. I have analysed the correspondence between their pronunciation of entire words and that of adult speakers of the same (dialect) area, and the occurring differences – meaning different phonological processes (at the level of word, syllable and phoneme).
I have established that the processes of substitution are the most common among all children, but more frequent in the group of children with recurrent otitis media. The greatest number of problems occur with the correct articulation of sibilants, namely phonemes /s/, /z/, /ʦ/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/ and /ʧ/ (the ratio between the test and control group being 3.1 : 1) and the phoneme /r/ (the ratio between the test and control group being 3 : 1). The third most frequent process is the substitution of a consonant with another consonant (7,5 : 1 ratio), with weak articulation of a certain phoneme (2 : 1) being the fourth. Those processes are followed by epenthesis, simplification of consonant clusters, substitution of a vowel with another vowel when not caused by natural language or dialect processes, devoicing, omission of a phoneme, assimilation, migration and metathesis.