The current study examined the associations between basic auditory perception, speech prosodic processing, and vocabulary development in Chinese kindergartners, specifically, whether early basic auditory perception may be related to linguistic prosodic processing in Chinese Mandarin vocabulary acquisition. A series of language, auditory, and linguistic prosodic tests were given to 100 preschool children who had not yet learned how to read Chinese characters. The results suggested that lexical tone sensitivity and intonation production were significantly correlated with children’s general vocabulary abilities. In particular, tone awareness was associated with comprehensive language development, whereas intonation production was associated with both comprehensive and expressive language development. Regression analyses revealed that tone sensitivity accounted for 36% of the unique variance in vocabulary development, whereas intonation production accounted for 6% of the variance in vocabulary development. Moreover, auditory frequency discrimination was significantly correlated with lexical tone sensitivity, syllable duration discrimination, and intonation production in Mandarin Chinese. Also it provided significant contributions to tone sensitivity and intonation production. Auditory frequency discrimination may indirectly affect early vocabulary development through Chinese speech prosody.
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