Akshara Processing in Telugu Depends on Syllabic and Phonemic Sensitivity: Preliminary Evidence from Normal Hearing and Hearing-Impaired Children
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The long-held view that most Brahmi-derived Indic scripts are prototypically alpha-syllabaries as well as a more recent proposal that these scripts are functionally alphabetic in terms of how they are read, have met with challenges in recent years. A consensus seems to be emerging about the idea that cognitive processes involved in beginning reading cannot be adequately understood without reference to sub-lexical processing that draws on language-specific syllable structures, and the extent of phonological information coded in the script. The research reported in this chapter deals with Telugu akshara processing abilities of 15 normal-hearing, and 15 hearing-impaired children. They were assessed using three specially designed tasks: akshara substitution, akshara deletion, and adding length marker to the vowel within one of the aksharas of target words. All three tasks made use of meaningful printed Telugu words. Both groups found deletion task more difficult than substitution task. All the children exhibited considerable phonemic sensitivity in the task requiring them to attach a vowel length marker to vowel in the first akshara of each target word. However, they scored poorly in making lexical decisions. These results are discussed in the light of sonority principles, and characteristic features of graphic syllables associated with Telugu writing system. Implications for the assessment and literacy instruction are discussed briefly.
KeywordsAkshara Alphasyllabary Brahmi-derived scripts Sonority Telugu
I am grateful to all the children who provided the data discussed in this chapter and to their parents and teachers for extending cooperation during data-collection and training phase. This research was supported by a grant from the University Grants Commission (UGC), New Delhi under their Research Award scheme.
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