Welcome to the LITMUS Crosslinguistic Nonword Repetition Tests 

This website provides information about LITMUS Crosslinguistic Nonword Repetition task. This task was created initially as part of the COST Action IS0804 'Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society: Linguistic Patterns and the Road to Assessment' funded by the EU RTD Framework Programme. After the end of the funding period, the tasks were further developed and adapted for more languages. A key outcome of this work is the Crosslinguistic Nonword Repetition Test and recording of test items designed to be maximally applicable across languages.


Nonword repetition requires skills in phonological perception and short-term memory that are needed to acquire words and morphosyntax. It follows that difficulties with these phonological processes will impact on children’s acquisition of lexical and morphosyntactic representations. Slow and limited acquisition of representations will in turn impact on children’s phonological perception and memory. Accordingly, decades of research in different countries and different language and socioeconomic communities have shown that many children with language disorder show deficits in nonword repetition. On these grounds, nonword repetition tasks serve as a potential clinical marker for language impairment. Because the test items are new for all children regardless of language background, they are particularly useful when assessing children who have limited or no experience of the test language, and/or use a language that is unknown to the clinician, or for which no language tests are available.
However, nonwords are not entirely free of language knowledge. Languages vary in their inventory of consonants and vowels, the ways in which these combine to form words, and their use of suprasegmental features such as tone and stress. They also vary in the frequency with which particular phonological forms occur in real words. Nonwords may therefore vary from being very like real words in the language to being nothing like these. Since nonwords cannot be entirely free of phonological experience and knowledge, the ideal test for multilingual assessment would be one that yields the maximum differentiation between children with and without language disorder, and the minimum differentiation between children from different language backgrounds.
This is the background to the framework for nonword repetition tasks    
developed during the COST Action IS0804. The framework includes:
  1. a crosslinguistic task comprising nonwords whose content is not biased towards word phonology in any particular language; the task is quasi-universal in that it is not possible to create consonant-vowel sequences that are possible in languages universally and with the same proximity to real words in every language. For more details and information about how to access the test materials go to The Crosslinguistic Nonword Repetition Test (CL-NWR).
  2. a language-specific task in which nonwords are created from the full inventory of consonants and vowels of a particular language and manipulated for phonological factors relevant to that language such as syllable complexity, phonotactic frequency, tone, prosody.
More details about the development of these tasks can be found in:
Chiat, S. (2015). Nonword Repetition. In S. Armon-Lotem, J. de Jong, & N. Meir (Eds.). Methods for assessing multilingual children: Disentangling bilingualism from language impairment. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

The Crosslinguistic Nonword Repetition Test

Spoken languages vary enormously in their phonology and phonetics – which characteristics of speech they use to create and distinguish words, and exactly how these are pronounced. The nonwords in the CL-NWR are designed to be compatible with languages whatever range of vowels and consonants they use; whether they use consonants syllable-finally or only syllable-initially; whether they use consonants in clusters of one or more or only singly; and whether they use tone, or stress pattern, or neither.


Nonword items

The CL-NWR consists of 16 items. These contain 2-5 syllables, with four items at each length. All syllables are simple CV structures using the three vowels /a/, /i/, /u/and the consonants /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/, /s/, /z/, /l/, /m/, /n/ which are most widely attested across languages. Syllables are produced with the same pitch and duration apart from a pitch fall on the final syllable used to mark the end of an utterance in many (though not all) languages. For each item, 4-6 candidates are provided in case one or more of these is a real word in the language or contains a consonant that is not present in the language.
While the test is designed to minimise bias towards any language or language type, it is impossible to rule out bias. For example, languages vary in word length: monosyllabic forms are typical or very frequent in some, but rare or non-existent in others. Since phonotactic frequency is the frequency of co-occurrence of phonemes in words of a language, the phonotactic frequency of consonant-vowel combinations in the nonwords will be higher in some languages than others. Prosody varies between languages: some reduce unstressed syllables, while others have even syllable duration, so the prosody of test items may be closer to some languages than others. Since the nonwords are made up of high-frequency vowels and consonants, constituent syllables are likely to be real words or real morphemes in some languages but may not be in others. Whether these crosslinguistic differences in lexical phonology bias the CL-NWR items towards or against different languages is an empirical question. We are currently collating data on the crosslinguistic task from approximately 1800 children collected in 13 countries to investigate consistency of performance across languages, and whether this justifies the establishment of multilingual norms.
However, the best way to address this question is to use the same recordings across language populations and countries, ensuring that any differences in performance are not due to differences in the recordings used. This was one of the reasons for creating the language-neutral recording of the CL-NWR.

The CL-NWR is presented on PowerPoint using a bead game in which each bead carries the sound file for one of the 16 nonwords and is added to a necklace chain after the child repeats the ‘magic word’. This presentation has proved very engaging for young children because they can see their progress as the beads build up the necklace.


Language-neutral: These recordings of all candidate items in the CL-NWR were created for universal use. Where there is crosslinguistic variation in the pronunciation of constituent vowels and consonants (e.g. in height, front/backness, and tensing of the three vowels; in voice onset time of plosives), intermediate points on the relevant phonetic dimension are used. This universal resource ensures consistency in the quality of recordings administered and therefore allows for comparison of performance across language groups and research studies.
Local recordings: Alternatively, users can make their own recordings of the 16 items with the vowels and consonants pronounced as they would be in their language or accent, and attach the sound files for these items to the bead presentation.

CL-NWR Test Materials

A complete PowerPoint presentation of the CL-NWR with language-neutral recordings of the 16 items is available for universal use.
To put together a PowerPoint presentation for your own selection of candidate items, you will need the following:
  • Table of the candidate nonwords for the 16 items in the CL-NWR: For each item, select the first nonword amongst the candidates that is compatible with the language.
  • Scoresheet with each item identified by its number: Next to each number on the scoresheet, enter the nonword you have selected for that item number.
  • Language-neutral recordings of all candidate items: If you are using these, select the sound file for each of the 16 items you have selected.
  • PowerPoint presentation of the bead game: Attach the 16 sound files (language-neutral, or your own recordings) to the 16 beads in the same order as the scoresheet.
  • Instructions for administration and scoring: The procedures for administration and scoring of the CL-NWR are the same whichever recordings you use.
All test materials can be obtained by emailing Kamila Polišenská at kamila.polisenska@manchester.ac.uk

How to cite CL-NWR tests

If you use the bead game presentation with language-neutral recordings, please cite as:


Chiat, S., Polišenská, K., Yanushevskaya, I., & Antonijevic, S. (2020). Language Neutral Crosslinguistic Nonword Repetition Test (CL-NWR).

If you use the bead game presentation with your own recordings of items from the framework, please cite as:


[Your names], Polišenská, K. & Chiat., S. (Year). The Crosslinguistic Nonword Repetition Test: [Language] version.

For example:

Chan, A., Kan, R., Kwan, E., Polišenská, K. & Chiat, S. (2020). Cantonese Crosslinguistic Nonword Repetition Test.

If you use the bead presentation as developed by Polišenská & Kapalková (2014), please cite: 

Polišenská, K., & Kapalková, S. (2014). Improving Child Compliance on a Computer-Administered Nonword Repetition Task. Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research, 57(3), 1060-1068.

When you refer to the CL-NWR framework, please cite:

Chiat, S. (2015). Nonword Repetition. In S. Armon-Lotem, J. de Jong, & N. Meir (Eds.), Methods for assessing multilingual children: Disentangling bilingualism from language impairment. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

CL-NWR Teams and Publications

Below is a list of countries with contact details of researchers who have used or are currently using the Crosslinguistic Nonword Repetition Test, followed by a list of publications.



Magdalena Jezek, Daniel Holzinger (Johannes Kepler University Linz)


Canada - French

Chantal Mayer-Crittenden (Laurentian University)



Gordana Hržica (University of Zagreb)



Sari Kunnari (University of Oulu)



Juliane Hinnerichs



Alexandra Polatidou, Shula Chiat (City, University of London)


Hong Kong - Cantonese, Urdu

Angel Chan, Rachel Kan, Eva Kwan, Saboor Hamdani (Hong Kong Polytechnic University), Kamila Polišenská (The University of Manchester), Shula Chiat (City, University of London)


Ireland - English

Stanislava Antonijevic (National University of Ireland, Galway)



Zurr Hanis (The National University of Malaysia)



Daniela Gatt, Helen Grech, Nadine Tabone (University of Malta)



Tessel Boerma, Elma Blom (Utrecht University)


Singapore - Mandarin, Tamil, Malay

Beth O’Brien (National Institute of Education, Singapore), Poorani Vijayakumar, Nurul Taqiah Yussof, Nicolette Waschl, Rogayah Razak, Mao Shiyun, Luo Qingming, Kamila Polišenská (The University of Manchester), Shula Chiat (City, University of London)



Masa Popovic, Ana Batas, Maja Savic, Darinka Andjelkovic (University of Belgrade)



Svetlana Kapalková (Comenius University in Bratislava)


South Africa

Michelle White (University of Cape Town)


Sweden - Swedish, Arabic, Turkish

Linnéa Öberg, Rima Haddad, Buket Öztekin, Ute Bohnacker (Uppsala University)



Salomé Schwob, Katrin Skoruppa (Université de Neuchâtel)



Shula Chiat (City, University of London), Kamila Polišenská (The University of Manchester)

Vicky Chondrogianni (The University of Edinburgh)



Jessica Carrizo, Sean Redmond (The University of Utah)


List of publications

Antonijevic-Elliott, S., Lyons, R., O’Malley, M. P., Meir, N., Haman, E., Banasik, N., Carroll, C., McMenamin, R., Rodden, M. & Fitzmaurice, Y. (2020). Language assessment of monolingual and multilingual children using non-word and sentence repetition tasks. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 34(4), 293-311.

Boerma, T.D. & Blom, W.B.T. (2017a). Digits or quasi-universal nonwords? The diagnostic validity of verbal memory measures for bilingual children with language impairment. In Christophe dos Santos & Laetitia de Almeida (Eds.), Bilingualism and Specific Language Impairment John Benjamins.

Boerma, T.D. & Blom, W.B.T. (2017b). Assessment of bilingual children: What if

testing both languages is not possible? Journal of Communication Disorders, 66, 65–76.


Boerma, T.D. & Blom, W.B.T. (2019). Quasi-universal nonword repetition and narrative performance over time: A longitudinal study on 5- to 8-year-old children with diverse language skills. In Sharon Armon-Lotem & Kleanthes Grohmann (Eds.), LiTMUS in Action - Comparative Studies across Europe John Benjamins.

Boerma, T., Chiat, S., Leseman, P., Timmermeister, M., Wijnen, F. & Blom, E. (2015). A Quasi-Universal Nonword Repetition Task as a Diagnostic Tool for Bilingual Children learning Dutch as a Second Language. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 58 (6), 1747-1760.

Chiat, S. (2015). Nonword Repetition. In S. Armon-Lotem, J. de Jong, & N. Meir (Eds.). Methods for assessing multilingual children: Disentangling bilingualism from language impairment. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Chiat, S., & Polišenská, K. (2016). A framework for crosslinguistic nonword

repetition tests: Effects of bilingualism and socioeconomic status on children's performance. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 59(5), 1179-1189.

Öberg, L. (2020). Words and non-words: Vocabulary and phonological working

memory in Arabic-Swedish-speaking 4–7-year-olds with and without a diagnosis of Developmental Language Disorder. Studia Linguistica Upsaliensia 27. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. ISBN 978-91-513-1046-6

Polišenská, K., Chiat, S., Fenton, J. and Roy, P. (2020). Assessing Young Children from Diverse Backgrounds: Novel Ways to Measure Language Abilities and Meet the Requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage. Languages, Society & Policy. https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.54064

White, M. J. (2019). The development of English proficiency and working memory in 5–6 year old ELLs in their first year of formal education, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2019.1571009

White, M. J. (2020). Phonological working memory and non-verbal complex working memory as predictors of future English outcomes in young ELLs. International Journal of Bilingualism. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367006920948136

Other Nonword Repetition Tests and Teams

A range of other nonword repetition tests were created through the COST Action or in collaboration with COST members. These vary from tests designed to be more or less language-independent, to tests designed for a specific language.


The French-German-Lebanese teams developed relatively language-independent tests containing nonwords that are short (maximum three syllables) but include more complex syllable structures (with a range of consonant clusters). Information about these tests is available on the following webpages: 

[hyperlinks to French-German-Lebanese webpages]


The more language-specific tests were often designed to test the effects of lexical-phonological factors such as length (in syllables or phonemes), phonological complexity (of consonant or vowel structure), phonotactic probability (of bigrams or n-grams), stress pattern, tone pattern, morphological familiarity, wordlikeness.


Dr Kamila Polišenská (The University of Manchester)



Prof. Shula Chiat (City, University of London)