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Title: Phonological awareness, literacy, and biligualism
Author: Smith, Helen Baños
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2000
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This thesis examines phonological awareness and literacy in monolingual and bilingual children. Experiment 1 shows that 5-6 year old Spanish-monolingual, English-monolingual and Spanish-English-bilingual children show the same pattern of development of phonological awareness. However, the degree of awareness of each unit is influenced by linguistic background. Spanish children are more aware of vowels and rimes than English children. English children are more aware of syllables than Spanish children. Bilingual children are more aware of syllables in Spanish than Spanish-monolinguals and more aware of vowels in English than English-monolinguals. Hence they show transfer of phonological awareness across languages. All three groups also show a different relationship between phonological awareness and reading. Experiment 2 shows that bilinguals are more aware than English monolinguals of vowels that exist in both languages (tense-vowels). Moreover, this enhanced awareness extends to vowels that do not exist in Spanish (lax-vowels). It is concluded that exposure to two languages enhances analysis of phonology as well as encouraging transfer of awareness. Experiment 2 also shows that Spanish-speakers read and spell vowels more accurately than English-speakers. Bilingual children read English vowels more accurately than English-monolinguals. This suggests they understand the orthographic representations of English vowels at least as well as monolinguals. However, they spell vowels less accurately. This may be because bilinguals misapply Spanish phoneme-to-graphemecorrespondences when spelling English vowels. The English and Spanish vowel systems differ more than their consonant systems. Experiment 3 shows that sensitivity to the four consonant types (stops, fricatives, nasals and liquids) is similar, and correlates with reading ability, in all groups. This suggests that bilinguals may only transfer awareness between English and Spanish of units that are linguistically dissimilar in each. Experiment 4 compared the awareness of the two consonants in word-medial double-consonants (e.g. the 'c' and 't' in mactan). Although only Spanish-speakers used syllable boundaries to analyse these consonants they made a similar number of errors to English-speakers. However, all groups used syllable boundaries to read and spell wordmedial double-consonants. Collectively, these results suggest that differences in phonological and orthographic structure between languages encourage different approaches to the acquisition of literacy. Future research should investigate how these differences may be exploited to facilitate literacy acquisition in each group.
Supervisor: Bryant, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Bilingualism in children ; Phonetics ; Great Britain ; Spanish