Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 13: 57–79, 2000.
© 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The phonological deﬁcit hypothesis in Chinese developmental
CONNIE SUK-HAN HO, TERESA PUI-SZE LAW & PENNY MAN NG
Chinese University of Hong Kong
Abstract. The phonological deﬁcit hypothesis in developmental dyslexia was examined with
readers in Chinese, a nonalphabetic script. Fifty-six Chinese children with dyslexia (23 of
whom had reading and writing difﬁculties and 33 had reading problems only) were compared
with average readers of the same age (CA controls) and average readers of the same reading-
level (RL controls) in phonological awareness and phonological memory skills. The results
showed that the Chinese dyslexic children with both reading and writing difﬁculties performed
signiﬁcantly worse than their CA controls and RL controls in nearly all the phonological
tasks, whereas those with reading problems only, performed signiﬁcantly less well than their
CA controls, but similarly with their RL controls. These ﬁndings suggest that Chinese chil-
dren with dyslexia have deﬁcits in processing phonological information like their alphabetic
Keywords: Developmental dyslexia, Phonological awareness, Phonological deﬁcit hypo-
thesis, Phonological memory, Reading Chinese
It may be surprising to notice at ﬁrst sight, that even though most children
learn to speak quite easily, some of them have difﬁculties in learning to read
after they enter school. Reading problems are deﬁnite obstacles to these chil-
dren’s academic success, as the ability of reading to learn depends very much
on the ability of learning to read. The term ‘dyslexia’ has widely been used
to refer to a severely impaired ability to read one that cannot be accounted
for by sensory or neurological damage, lack of educational opportunities,
or low intelligence (e.g., Critchley 1970; Stanovich 1986; Vellutino 1979).
However, these exclusionary criteria do not tell us much about what this
reading disability really is.
In this century, numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the
characteristics of children with dyslexia and the underlying causes of their
reading problems, especially in regard to children reading an alphabetic
script. There is convergent evidence showing that children with dyslexia often
exhibit problems in processing linguistic and phonological information. They