Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Dr. Kathy L. Coufal


This thesis project investigated the relationship of linguistic features and their modality, and the amount of change in similarity judgments within each age group and between age groups. Three triads of unfamiliar line drawings were presented to four year-old preschoolers and college students. Participants were asked to judge which one of two line drawing stimuli is most similar to the target stimulus. In the control condition no linguistic labels were provided for the line drawings. In the experimental conditions linguistic labels were added in the form o f spoken words, printed words or spoken and printed words. Linguistic labels were carefully “invented” considering the developmental level of typical auditory discrimination skills in four-year-olds. The study consisted o f a rhyming screen performed with preschoolers to examine rhyming skills, one control condition (no linguistic features presented), and three experimental conditions (added linguistic features). The order o f experimental condition, presentation of triad I, II and HI, placement (right or left side) of the stimuli choices, and verbal instructions were randomized within the two age groups. Chi-square analyses were used for each triad and each experimental condition. Results revealed emergent skills o f phonological similarity detection and orientation towards similar sounding labels in preschool children, however their performance did not exceed chance level. The preschoolers’ decisions were mainly based on visual perceptual features. In adults linguistic features overrode non-linguistic visual features in one triad when features were provided in verbal and printed form. Labels did not override non-linguistic visual features when only provided in verbal or printed form. Conclusions for adult participants are that when labels are provided in verbal and printed form more attention is drawn to the label. These differences between adults and children may be attributed to differences in metalinguistic knowledge, developmental differences in the nature o f the phonological lexicon in both age groups, different capacities o f auditory short term memory and pre-literacy of preschoolers influencing their considerations of printed words.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Master of Arts Degree University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 2004 Antje Mefferd.

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