Phonological awareness, the ability to analyze spoken language into small sound units, has been shown to be affected by the individual's early orthographic experience (alphabetic vs. non-alphabetic). Past studies, however, have not differentiated the effect of script alphabeticity from that of spoken language experience, which covaries strongly with the phonological properties of the language. The present study compares younger, pre-reading to older, literate children from different linguistic backgrounds on their phonological awareness. Hong Kong and Guangzhou subjects both spoke Cantonese. The latter subjects had early experience with Pinyin (alphabetic) in addition to their logographic Chinese reading; the former read only logographic Chinese. New Zealand subjects spoke English and read the Roman alphabet. Results showed that: (1) the Hong Kong and Guangzhou pre-readers performed very similarly at all levels of phonological awareness; (2) the New Zealand pre-readers outperformed their Hong Kong and Guangzhou counterparts on onset, rime, and coda analyses; (3) the Guangzhou reading children outperformed their Hong Kong counterparts on onset and coda analyses. Whereas finding (3) reflects an effect of alphabeticity in the first learned script, finding (2) in combination with finding (1) indicates an effect of early spoken language experience independent of orthography. The fact that orthographic and spoken language experience both impact on the development of phonological skills implies a mediating function of phonological awareness in integrating sound information derived from reading and perceiving speech.
Cognition – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 2001
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