Reframing Differences: The Dialect Variations in the Phonological Development of Canadian Bilingual Children who Speak French

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  • Introduction: Canada’s French-English bilingual population is increasing, including the number of individuals outside of Québec who speak French. These individuals make up Official Language Minority Communities (OLMCs) which refer to Canadians who speak French and live outside of Québec, and Canadians who speak English and live in Québec. Children who are part of OLMCs are often bilingual. Following best practice in speech-language pathology, these children should be assessed for speech and language delays in both French and English. Unfortunately, limited reference data exists for children who speak French in Canada, and even less so for those part of OLMCs across Canada where a broad range of dialects exist. A better
    understanding of age-related phonological development and differences in OLMC populations is needed to fill the gap in the literature and to provide appropriate services to these children.
    Objective: The purpose of this research study is to investigate the variations of French phonological development in typically developing four-year old bilingual children in OLMCs. This project captures the broad range of dialectal variations across the country through various analyses.
    Method: Data from 51 children from Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montréal, and Québec City were analyzed. The Évaluation sommaire de la phonologie chez les enfants d’âge préscolaire (ESPP) captured the phonological abilities of those children in French. Independent, relational and statistical analyses were conducted to obtain phonological inventories, Percent Consonant Correct (PCC) by site, position, and shared/unshared French-English sounds, as well as phonological patterns from children in Québec City and Winnipeg.
    Results: Children from OLMCs had similar phonological inventories overall and by word position, similar PCC by position, and all had higher shared French-English phonemes as compared to French specific consonants. Québec City had significantly lower global PCC compared to Edmonton and Montréal. The phonological pattern analysis provided insight on possible dialectal variations in Winnipeg and Québec City including aspiration and voicing errors.
    Implications: This study provides phonological reference data for children in various provinces for speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to refer to when assessing for language difference or disorder. The results from this study indicate that children from various provinces have common patterns of phonological acquisition. Differences in PCC are present and may depend on several factors, including language exposure and level of transcription. Phonological pattern analysis provided preliminary data on allophonic and dialectical variations present in Québec City and Winnipeg.

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    Article (Draft / Submitted)
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International