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Professor TONG, Xiuli Shelley

Professor TONG, Xiuli Shelley



Academic Unit of Human Communication, Learning, and Development


Postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, Canada (2008-2010)
Postdoctoral fellow in the MARCS Institute of the University of Western Sydney, Australia (2010-2011)


[javascript protected email address]


(852) 2241 5981


Room 804B, Meng Wah Complex

Research Expertise

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Bilingualism and Multilingualism
  • Brain and Cognition
  • Language Processing and Dyslexia
  • Special/Inclusive and Gifted Education
  • Speech and Hearing Sciences

Prospective PhD/ EdD/ MPhil Applications

I am available to supervise PhD/MPhil students and would welcome enquiries for supervision.

Research Interests:


As Director of the Speech, Language and Reading Lab ( ), I utilize both cognitive-behavioral and neurophysiological approaches to investigate (1) the neurocognitive mechanism that enables bilingual children to crack suprasegmental speech and orthographic codes in two different languages to formulate speech-print associations in the process of becoming biliterate; (2) the impact of music and tonal language learning experience on developmental neuroplasticity in the auditory cortex; and (3) effective intervention strategies for leveraging the strength of children with developmental dyslexia, poor reading comprehension, and/or autism spectrum disorders. My current research promotes the well-being of those children by providing a speech-language-literacy intervention program targeted at improving neurocognitive, linguistic and social-behavioral skills.


Teaching Areas:


Research Methods and Statistics for Speech and Hearing Sciences, School-Age and Adolescent Language & Literacy Disorders

Selected Awards 


2021, HKU Faculty of Education Outstanding Researcher Award


2021, HKU Faculty of Education Research Output Prize


2021, RGC Research Fellow Award


2019, Fulbright Senior Research Scholar Award 


2017, HKU Faculty of Education Research Output Prize


2016, HKU Faculty of Education Outstanding Young Researcher Award


2016, HKU Faculty of Education Early Career Research Output Award 


2015, HKU Overseas Fellowship Award, The University of Hong Kong 


2011, US National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow


2008, The first recipient of U.S. Scientific Studies of Reading Society Rebecca L. Sandak Young Investigator Award


Selected Editorship and Editorial Board Membership


2017- 2020,  Associate Editor,  Applied Psycholinguistics. Publisher: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.


2021- present,  Editorial Review Board Member,  Reading Research Quarterly, Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


2021- present,  Editorial Board Member,  Applied Psycholinguistics. Publisher: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.


2020- present,  Editorial Board Member,  Reading and Writing, Publisher: Sprining US, New Mexico


2018-Present,  Editorial Board Member,  Scientific Studies of Reading.

Selected Externally Funded Projects


Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC)/Research Fellow Scheme.  Understanding strenghts and deficits in Chinese developmental dyslexia. Principal Investigator, 2021-2026. 


Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC)/General Research Fund.  Creating Order Out of Disorder: Neural Mechanisms Underlying Statistical Learning and Reading. Principal Investigator, 2022-2025.


Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC)/General Research Fund.  Neurophysiological and behavioral metalingusitic correlates of reading comprehension develpment and difficulties in deaf and hard-of-hear children. Principal Investigator, 2021-2024. 


US National Institues of Health (NIH).  The neural coding of speech across human languages. Subaward Principal Investigator, 2020-2025. 


Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC)/General Research Fund.  Improving autistic children's mind and text reading through executive function and language comprehension. Principal Investigator, 2020-2023. 


Fulbright Hong Kong Scholar Programme.  Effects of native prosodic features on learning leixcal pitch accents. Principal Investigator, 2019-2020. 


Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC)/General Research Fund.  From mind reading to text reading: What are the roles of executive function and language comprehension?. Principal Investigator, 2018-2021. 


Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC)/General Research Fund.  Discovering hidden regularities in print: Chinese dyslexic children’s statistical learning of sublexical orthographic regularities. Principal Investigator, 2016-2018. 


Hong Kong the Research Grants Council (RGC) /Early Career Scheme.  Becoming a skilled comprehender in both Chinese and English: Prosodic sensitivity and working memory in bilingual children’s reading comprehension. Principal Investigator, 2015-2018.


UK Economic and Social Research Council and Hong Kong the Research Grants Council (RGC) Joint Grant Scheme.  Language-specific and language-general influences on reading comprehension development: Comparisons between an alphabetic and morphographic script. Co-Principal Investigator (with Professor Kate Cain, Lancaster University), 2013-2014.


National Social Science Foundation.  The emergent literacy in Chinese children with autism. Co-Investigator (PI Dr. Jing Zhao, Sun Yat-sen University), 2013-2015.


U.S. National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation.  Becoming biliterate in Chinese and English: What is the Role of Higher Phonological Processing?  Principal Investigator, 2011-2013.

Selected Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles (* indicates graduate student author) 


1) Cognitive and Neural Mechanisms of Statistical Learning in Dyslexia


Tong, S. X., Duan, R., Shen, W., Yu, Y., & Tong, X. (2022). Multiple mechanisms regulate statistical learning of orthographic regularities in school-age children: Neurophysiological evidence. Developmental Cognitive Neurosceince.

(This paper suggests that neural adaptation associated with an attenuated N170 underpins the encoding of high-predictable input while attention and working memory related to an enhanced P1 and P300 are involved in the processing of low-predictable input. Children's abilities to prioritize these mechanisms vary with context and age.)


*Lee, M-K. S., Cui, Y., & Tong, X., (2022). Toward a model of statistical learning and reading: Evidence from a meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 92(4).

(This paper proposes a new theoretical model, namely, SLR, for cognitive science research on statistical learning and reading. )


Tong, X., *Zhang, P, & *He, X.  (2020). Statistical learning of orthographic regularities in Chinese children with and without dyselixa. Child Development, 91(6), 1953-1969. 

(This paper demonstrates that statistical learning deficits exhibited by children with dyslexia may result from their difficulties in coping with low-probability input.)


*Lee, S. M-K., & Tong, X..  (2020). Spelling in developmental dyslexia in Chinese: Evidence of deficits in statistical learning and over-reliance on phonology. Cognitive Neuropsychology. 


*Tong, X., Wang, Y., & Tong, S. X., (2020a). Neurocognitive correlates of statistical learning of orthographic-semantic connections in Chinese adult learners. Neuroscience Bulletin.


*Tong, X., Wang, Y., & Tong, S. X., (2020b). The neural signature of statistical learning of orthogrpahy.  Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.   


Tong, X., Leung, W-S., & Tong, S.  X. (2019). Visual statistical learning and orthographic awarenesss in Chinese children with and without developmental dyslexia. Research in Developmental Disabilities, Sept92: 103443.


*He, X., & Tong, X. (2017a). Quantity matters: Children with dyslexia are impaired in small, but not large number of exposures during implicit repeated sequence learning. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. doi: 10.1044/2017_AJSLP-15-0190.


*He, X., & Tong, X. (2017b). Statistical learning as a key to cracking Chinese orthographic codes. Scientific Studies of Reading. 21(1), 60-75.


Tong, X., & McBride, C. (2014). Chinese children’s statistical learning of orthographic regularities: Positional constraints and character structure. Scientific Studies of Reading, 25, 1-18. DOI: 10.1080/10888438.2014.884098.


2). Reading Comprehension Development and Difficulties: Bilingualism, Autism, Deaf and hard-of-Hearing


Tong, X., Chiu, M. M., & Tong, S. X. (2023). Synergetic effects of phonological awareness, vocabulary and word reading on reading comprehension in bilingual children: A 3-year study. Contemporary Edcuational Psychology. 


Tong, X., Kwan, J. Y-K., Tong, X. & Deacon H. (2021). How Chinese-English bilingual children draw on syntactic awareness in reading comprehension: Within and cross-language effects. Reading Research Quarterly. 


James, E., Currie, N., Tong, X., & Cain, K. (2021). The relations between morphological awareness and reading comprehension in beginning readers to young adolescents. Journal of Research in Reading.


*Deng, Q., & Tong, X. (2021a). Suprasegmental but not segmental phonological awareness matters in undertanding bilingual reading comprehension difficulties in Chinese and English: A 3-year longitudinal study. Annals of Dyslexia.


*Deng, Q., & Tong, X. (2021b). Linguistic but not cognitive weaknesses in deaf or hard-of-hearing poor comprehenders. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.


*Deng, Q., & Tong, X. (2021c). Understanding text reading comprehension of Chinese students who are d/deaf and heard of hearing: The roles of segmental phonological awareness and suprasegmental lexical tone awareness. American Annals of the Deaf.


Tong, X., Wong, R., W-Y., Kwan, J. Y-K., & Arciuli, J. (2019). Theory of mind as a mediator of reading comprehension diffierences between Chinese school-age children with autism and typically develooping peers. Scientific Studies of Reading, 24(4), 292-306.


*Deng, Q., *Choi, W., & Tong, X. (2019). Bidirectional cross-linguistic association of phonological skills and reading comprehension: Evidence from Hong Kong Chinese-English bilingual readers: Journal of Learning Disabilities, 52 (4), 299-311.


*Choi, W., Tong, X., & Cain, K. (2016). Lexical prosody beyond L1 boundary: Chinese lexical tone sensitivity predicts English reading comprehension. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 148, 70-68. 


Tong, X., Deacon, S. H., & Cain, K. (2014). Morphological and syntactic awareness in poor comprehenders: Another piece of the puzzle. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 47 (1), 22-33. 


Tong, X.,, Deacon, S. H., Kirby, J., Cain, K. & Parrila, R. (2011). Morphological awareness: A key to understanding poor reading comprheension in English. Journal of  Educational Psychology, 103 (3), 523-534. 


3). Prosody and Suprasegmental Speech Perception: Musical Pitch, Lexical Tone and Lexical Stress


Gu, F., Wong, L., Hu, A., Zhang, X., &  Tong, X. (2019). A lternal inhibition mechanism explains the dissocation between mismatch negativity and behavioral pitch discrimination. Brain Research, 1, 1720.


*Choi, W., Tong, X., & Samuel, A. (2019). Better than native: Tone language experience enhances English lexical stress discrimination in Cantonese-English bilingual listeners. Cognition, 189, 188-192.


Tong, X., *Choi, W., & *Man, Y. Y. (2018). Tone language experience modulates the effects of long-term musical training on musical pitch perception. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America., 144 (2), 690-697.


Tong, X., Tong, S., X-L. , & Yiu, F. K. (2017). Beyond auditory sensory processing deficits: Lexical tone perception deficits in Chinese children with developmental dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities. doi: 10.1177/0022219417712018\


Tong, X., *He, X., & Deacon, H. (2016). Tone matters for Cantonese-English bilingual children’s English word reading development: A unified model of phonological transfer. Memory & Cognition. doi:10.3758/s13421-016-0657-0.


Tong X, Lee, S.M-K, Lee, M.M-L, Burnham, D. (2015) A tale of two features: Perception of Cantonese lexical tone and English lexical stress in Cantonese-English bilinguals. PLoS ONE 10(11): e0142896. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0142896.


Tong, X. [xiuli], McBride, C., & Tong, X. (2014). Tune in to the tone: Lexical tone identification is associated with vocabulary and word recognition abilities in young Chinese children. Language and Speech, 58(4), 441-458. doi: 10.1177/0023830914562988.


Tong, X., McBride, Zhang, J., Chung, K. H., Lee, C-Y, Shuai, L., & Tong, X. (2014). Neural correlates of acoustic cues of English lexical stress in Cantonese-speaking children. Brain & Language, 138, 61-70.


Tong, X., Tong, X., & McBride-Chang, C. (2013). A tale of two-writing systems: Double dissociation and metalinguistic transfer between Chinese and English word reading among Hong Kong children. Journal of Learning Disability. DOI: 10.1177/0022219413492854

4). Learning to Read Chinese: Theoretical Models


Tong, X., Kwan, J. L-Y., Wong, D. W-M., Lee, S. M-K, & Yip, J. H-Y. (2016). Toward a dynamic interactive model of non-native Chinese character processing. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(5), 680-693. 


Tong, X., & McBride, C. (2018). Toward a graded psycholexical space mapping model: Sublexical and lexical representations in Chinese character reading development. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 51(5), 482-489. doi:10.1177/0022219417718199


Tong, X., & McBride-Chang, C. (2010). Developmental models of learning to read Chinese words. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1662-1676.


5). Strenghts in Dyslexia


Lam, J. H. -Y, & Tong, X. (2021). Drawing a new picture: Children with developmental dyselexia exhibit superior nonverbal creativity. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 116, 104036. 



2021-present  Member, Board of Association for Reading and Writing in Asia (ARWA)


2021-present  Member, The Society for Research in Child Development Asian Caucus 


2020-present  Member, Publication Commitee of Society for the Scientific Study of Reading


2018-present  Member, Membership Commitee of Society for the Scientific Study of Reading