Welcome to the LITMUS Quasiuniversal Nonword Repetition Tests
This website provides information about LITMUS Quasiuniversal Nonword repetition tasks. These tasks were 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.
During COST Action IS0804 (European Cooperation in Science and Technology), "Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society: Linguistic Patterns and the Road to Assessment," possible diagnostic tools and/or screening tools were discussed and designed. One of the goals was to have available tools that are able to distinguish typically developing bilingual children (Bi-TD) from bilingual children with DLD (Developmental Language Disorders).
Nonword repetition tasks were of high interest as they offer the possibility of giving important clues about potential language impairment in children with limited exposure or knowledge of the language used by the speech-language pathologist. Another advantage of nonword repetition tasks is that they allow for manipulation of the constituent elements, which makes it possible to assess a particular component of language or cognition. For the Quasi-Universal Nonword Repetition Test, the elements were manipulated in order to focus on phonology.
For example, in order to achieve this goal, the length of nonwords was limited to three-syllable items, thereby reducing the effect of working memory. Nonword repetition tasks have substantial theoretical advantages. They only weakly rely on L1 vocabulary knowledge. Bilingual children’s performance should approximate that of monolinguals. Nonword repetition tasks have other advantages: administration time for the task is only approximately five minutes, and adjustments for other languages are simplified compared to tasks using real words. The extensive list of these advantages is presented in Chiat, 2015, which provides a synthesis of COST Action IS0804 work, dealing especially with the relevance of such tasks for assessing bilingual children.
The Quasi-Universal Nonword Repetition test (QU-NWR) aims to provide a way of distinguishing children with DLD from typically developing children, whether these children are monolingual or bilingual, on the basis of potential phonological difficulties.
The effect of working memory has been reduced by limiting the length of nonwords to three syllables, since this effect, as reported in the literature, starts to appear from three syllables upwards. To limit the effect of lexical knowledge, instead of creating nonwords from existing words, nonwords were built from elementary blocks (syllables and segments). These building blocks were combined to form nonwords. This method makes it possible to finely manipulate the different blocks to be combined in order to obtain different degrees of phonological complexity.
Two types of items were created for this test: one labeled “language independent” (LI), and the other labeled “language dependent” (LD). The items labeled “language independent” are composed by segments and syllable structures that are available in most languages of the world. This label was given for the sake of simplicity, since these items would be more properly characterized as “quasi-independent.” Indeed, it is not possible to completely isolate nonwords from a specific language (Chiat, 2015). LD items were created by adding aspects of phonological complexity that are part of the language to be tested.
All items are composed of three vowels ([i], [a] and [u]) and five consonants (a labial stop, a dorsal stop, a labial fricative, a liquid and a coronal fricative). As voicing is not considered in the assessment, the exact consonant used is specified for each adaptation. For example, the French version used the labial stop [p], and the Lebanese version used the labial stop [b]. In both versions, child production of either [p] or [b] is counted as correct. The vowels and consonants used are available in almost all languages. The consonants selected are of varying degrees of phonological complexity and also make it possible to contrast place of articulation and manner of articulation (e.g. labial/dorsal and stop/fricative).
All items are composed of a subset of syllable structures: CV (a consonant followed by a vowel), CCV (a syllable may start with two consonants – branching onset position), and CVC# (the last syllable of the item may end in a consonant). The CV structure is considered the simplest, with each of the other two syllable structures adding a degree of phonological complexity. The syllabic structure of the LI items is kept the same, regardless of the language. For the LD items, other complex syllable structures are introduced according to the language of the adaptation. For example, in the French and German versions, CVC structure in which a syllable ends in a consonant word internally is used for the creation of LD items. These additional syllable structures used for the LD items are, in general, relatively uncommon across languages. The choice to manipulate syllable structure was made because syllables having complex structures, like a branching onset or a coda, have been shown to be appropriate markers for assessing phonological disorders. For each adaptation, items are recorded using prosody which is typical for the language of the adaptation.
The Quasi-Universal Nonword Repetition test is presented on PowerPoint. Several versions are available. The most common one is based on the story of an alien who wants to teach the child a few words in his own language. Nevertheless, all versions have proven to be engaging and age appropriate. The presentation could be audio only or audiovisual (i.e. providing visual cues for articulatory movements).
Quasi Universal Nonword Repetition test version/adaptation
Each language can have their own adaptation based on the original French/German test. In the original test, the number of LI items is 30. The number of LD items may vary depending on the number and type of syllabic structures chosen for each language.
French (France) versions (Ferré and dos Santos)
71 items (LI: 30; LD: 41) - audio only
50 items (LI: 21; LD: 29) - audio only and audiovisual
31 items (LI: 13; LD: 18) – audiovisual
Document available: scoresheet and Instructions for administration and scoring
French (Belgium) version
Same 50 items as in French (France) version recorded by a French-speaking Belgian speaker – audiovisual
Contact: Pauline van der Straten Waillet (Pauline.Van.Der.Straten@ulb.be)
German version (Grimm)
Long version: 66 items (LI: 30; LD: 36) – audio only
Short version: 40 items (LI: 20; LD: 20) – audio only
Contact: Angela Grimm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lebanese version (Abou Melhem, Kouba Hreich and dos Santos)
30 items (LI items only) – audio only
Contact: Nouhad Abou Melhem (email@example.com)
Portuguese version (de Almeida and dos Santos)
71 items (LI: 30; LD: 41) – audio only
Dutch version (Schaeffer, Collée, Marijn van 't Veer Ferré and dos Santos)
56 items (LI: 24; LD: 32) – audio only
Italian version (Silvia Silleresi, Yining Nie and Maria Teresa Guasti)
Number of items and format: in progress
Contact: Silvia Silleresi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
British English version in progress (De Cat, Klepousniotou, Gunning, Ferré and dos Santos)
31 items (LI: 13; LD: 18) – audio only
Contact: Cecile de Cat (C.DeCat@leeds.ac.uk).
Dr Sandrine Ferré (University of Tours)
Dr. Angela Grimm (University of Frankfurt)
Dr. Christophe dos Santos (University of Tours)