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J Child Lang. 2006 May;33(2):369-99.

Differing sequences of metaphonological development in French and English.

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Department of Psychology, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, Scotland, UK.


Phonological awareness is thought to become increasingly analytic during early childhood. This study examines whether the proposed developmental sequence (syllable --> onset-rime --> phoneme) varies according to the characteristics of a child's native language. Experiment 1 compares the phonological segmentation skills of English speakers aged 4;11 (N = 10), 5;3 (N = 21), and 6;5 (N = 23) and French speakers aged 5;6 (N = 35), and 6;8 (N = 34). Experiment 2 assesses performance in the common unit task using English speakers aged 4;7 (N = 22), 5;7 (N = 23), and 6;11 (N = 22), and French speakers aged 4;7 (N = 20), 5;6 (N = 35), and 6;7 (N = 33). The experiments reveal crosslinguistic differences in the processing of syllables prior to school entry with French speakers exhibiting a greater consistency in manipulating syllables. Phoneme awareness emerges in both languages once reading instruction is introduced and rime awareness appears to follow rather than precede this event. Thus, the emergence of phonological awareness did not show a universal pattern but rather was subject to the influence of both native language and literacy.

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