Speech variations in First Nations kindergarten children across Canada

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University of New Brunswick


The purpose of the study was to investigate the extent to which speech errors made by First Nations children compared with those of a non-Aboriginal population, and how the errors were related to a common heritage language background, age, gender, and English as a second language. Speech errors were determined by administering the Diagnostic Evaluation for Articulation and Phonology’s Diagnostic Screen in 374 kindergarten children on Cree, Dene, Ojibway, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, and Innu reservations across Canada. The data were analyzed using statistical techniques, and in particular logistic and Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regressions. Results of the regression models revealed that the types of speech errors differed by gender, significantly favouring boys in four speech error occurrences. English as a second language was a significant factor and more prevalent in one speech error for both Cree L1 children and Innu L1 children, relative to their respective heritage language background. This study makes an important contribution to the limited but critical research examining speech variations for First Nations. Its conclusions call for further research to explore speech variations at the community level in order to validate speech variations that can drive culturally-relevant and fair speech assessments. This will also provide language documentation for Speech-Language Pathologists and educators who work with First Nations children.