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Rhodes > English Language and Linguistics > Research > Foundation Phase Literacy in African Languages

Work in Progress: The development of phonological awareness measures for isiXhosa

Date Released: Fri, 8 May 2015 12:01 +0200

This study presents guidelines for a linguistically founded language specific measure of phonological awareness in isiXhosa. It is widely accepted that phonological awareness – the ability to pay attention to and manipulate the sounds of a language – is a necessary skill for the acquisition of literacy in all languages studied to date (Stanovich 2000). The study of this cognitive skill has predominantly focussed on English, but there has been an increase in cross-linguistic studies, much confined to Indo-European languages. To date, phonological awareness in Bantu languages has not been adequately addressed (de Vos, van der Merwe and Van der Mescht 2015), perhaps because of a lack of explicitness when developing tests for languages other than English. This study explicitly discusses the decisions made when developing a test for isiXhosa, which can easily be adapted for other Bantu languages. A pilot study conducted with 31 isiXhosa speaking Grade 4 learners demonstrates the need for language specific considerations in the development of phonological awareness tests. These language-specific considerations are discussed in light of the results of the pilot study and recommendations are made for future research in phonological awareness for isiXhosa.

Source:Maxine Diemer, Kristin van der Merwe and Mark de Vos