Phonological awareness in isiXhosa: what we know and where we can go

15 March 2016 -15 March 2016 @ 17:00 - 18:00


March 15, 2016
05:00 PM - 06:00 PM
Room 4, Department of English Language and Linguistics, Rhodes University
Event Type:


Ian Siebörger
046 603 7420

This presentation outlines the development of linguistically based, language-specific measures of phonological awareness (PA) in isiXhosa.  Hitherto, the study of PA has predominantly focused on English, and to date PA in Bantu languages has not been adequately addressed. The results of two studies are discussed to highlight what is currently known about PA in isiXhosa, and how this may differ from the existing literature on English, as well as to suggest future avenues of research on this topic. The first study (N = 31) showed that language-specific PA tasks allow the discovery of language-specific effects, for example, morphology may influence the salience of sound units in specific positions in the word. For the second study (N = 52), the PA task was revised to provide a more detailed understanding of PA and its relationship to different reading skills (fluency, accuracy and comprehension). In accordance with previous research, PA was strongly linked to successful reading. The revised PA task also allowed in-depth analysis of the effects of: orthography, task difficulty, linguistic difficulty, school, and position of the unit in the word on PA responses. Some of these effects have been previously reported in the literature, and some were found to be language-specific, emphasising the need for a robust PA test in isiXhosa. Suggestions are made to improve the existing PA task, and areas where there are still gaps in the knowledge are identified.

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