Multiliteracy in Akshara and Alphabetic Orthographies: The Case of Punjabi, Hindi and English Learners in Primary Schools in Punjab

  • Seema GautamEmail author
  • John Everatt
  • Amir Sadeghi
  • Brigid McNeill
Part of the Literacy Studies book series (LITS, volume 17)


This chapter reports research on Grade 2–5 children learning to be literate in Punjabi, Hindi and English. Children (80–100 per grade) were assessed on reading comprehension, listening comprehension, non-word reading ability, phonological processing, orthographic knowledge and speed of processing in all three languages. The focus was on predictors of reading in the two akshara orthographies (Punjabi and Hindi) and the one alphabetic orthography (English). For both Punjabi and Hindi, reading comprehension was predicted by listening comprehension and decoding ability. Orthographic knowledge also predicted reading comprehension after controlling for word recognition. In English, along with listening comprehension and decoding, rapid naming and orthographic knowledge were also independent predictor of reading comprehension. Findings will be considered in terms of the development of reading across different orthographies (akshara versus alphabetic) within children learning to be literate in multiple languages.


Akshara versus Alphabetic Listening comprehension Multiliteracy: Punjabi, Hindi, English Non-word reading Orthographic knowledge Phonological processing Reading comprehension predictors Speed of processing 


  1. Agnihotri, R. K. (2013). Hindi: An essential grammar. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bérubé, D., & Marinova-Todd, S. H. (2012). The development of language and reading skills in the second and third languages of multilingual children in French Immersion. International Journal of Multilingualism, 9(3), 272–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bhatia, T. K. (1994). Punjabi: A cognitive-descriptive grammar. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Bhatia, T. K. (2015). Colloquial Hindi: The complete course for beginners (2nd ed.). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Bialystok, E., McBride-Chang, C., & Luk, G. (2005). Bilingualism, language proficiency, and learning to read in two writing systems. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(4), 580–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowden, A. L. (2012). Punjabi Tonemics and the Gurmukhi script: A preliminary study. MA thesis, Brigham Young University, USA.Google Scholar
  7. Campbell, G.L. (1995). Concise compendium of the world’s languages. Abingdon, UK: RoutledgeGoogle Scholar
  8. Daniels, P. T., & Bright, W. (1996). The world’s writing systems. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Denckla, M. B., & Rudel, R. G. (1976). Rapid automatized naming (RAN): Dyslexia differentiated from other learning-disabilities. Neuropsychologia, 14(4), 471–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Elbeheri, G., Everatt, J., Mahfoudhi, A., Al-Diyar, M. A., & Taibah, N. (2011). Orthographic processing and reading comprehension among Arabic speaking mainstream and LD children. Dyslexia, 17(3), 123–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gautam, S. (2017). Predictors of Punjabi, Hindi and English reading comprehension among multilingual children in the Punjab region of India. PhD thesis. University of Canterbury, New Zealand.Google Scholar
  12. Georgiou, G. K., Papadopoulos, T. C., Fella, A., & Parrila, R. (2012). Rapid naming speed components and reading development in a consistent orthography. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 112(1), 117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gill, H. S., & Gleason, H. A. (1969). A reference grammar of Punjabi. Patiala, India: Department of Linguistics, Punjabi University.Google Scholar
  14. Gough, P. B., & Tunmer, W. E. (1986). Decoding, reading, and reading disability. Remedial and Special Education, 7(1), 6–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gupta, A. (2004). Reading difficulties of Hindi-speaking children with developmental dyslexia. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 17(1–2), 79–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gupta, A., & Jamal, G. (2007). Reading strategies of bilingual normally progressing and dyslexic readers in Hindi and English. Applied Psycholinguistics, 28(1), 47–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hoover, W. A., & Gough, P. B. (1990). The simple view of reading. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 2(2), 127–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hornberger, N., & Vaish, V. (2009). Multilingual language policy and school linguistic practice: globalization and English language teaching in India, Singapore and South Africa. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 39(3), 305–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Joshi, R. M., & Aaron, P. G. (2000). The component model of reading: Simple view of reading made a little more complex. Reading Psychology, 21(2), 85–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Joshi, R. M., Tao, S., Aaron, P. G., & Quiroz, B. (2012). Cognitive component of componential model of reading applied to different orthographies. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 45(5), 480–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Koda, K. (2007). Reading and language learning: Crosslinguistic constraints on second language reading development. Language Learning 57, 1–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Koul, O. N. (2005). Language, education and communication. Delhi, India: Indian Institute of Language Studies.Google Scholar
  23. Koul, O. N. (2009). Modern Hindi grammar. Delhi, India: Indian Institute of Language Studies.Google Scholar
  24. Malik, A. N. (1995). The phonology and morphology of Panjabi. New Delhi, India: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers.Google Scholar
  25. Mann, G. S. (2011). An introduction to Punjabi: Grammar, conversation and literature. Patiala, India: Punjabi University.Google Scholar
  26. Meganathan, R. (2011). Language policy in education and the role of English in India: From library language to language of empowerment. In H. Coleman (Ed.), Dreams and realities: Developing countries and the English language. London: British Council.Google Scholar
  27. Melby-Lervåg, M., & Lervåg, A. (2011). Cross-linguistic transfer of oral language, decoding, phonological awareness and reading comprehension: A meta-analysis of the correlational evidence. Journal of Research in Reading, 34(1), 114–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mohanty, A. K. (2010). Languages, inequality and marginalization: Implications of the double divide in Indian multilingualism. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 205, 131–154.Google Scholar
  29. Neale, M. D. (1999). Neale analysis of reading ability (3rd ed.). Camberwell, Australia: Australian Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar
  30. Nigam, R. C., & Sen, S. (1975). Grammatical sketches of Indian languages with comparative vocabulary and texts. Delhi, India: National Government Publications.Google Scholar
  31. Pandey, P. (2007). Phonology-orthography interface in Devanāgarī for Hindi. Written Language and Literacy, 10(2), 139–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pasquarella, A., Chen, X., Gottardo, A., & Geva, E. (2015). Cross-language transfer of word reading accuracy and word reading fluency in Spanish-English and Chinese-English bilinguals: Script-universal and script-specific processes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(1), 96–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sadeghi, A., & Everatt, J. (2015). Influence of language background on English reading comprehension skills: Cross-language transfer effects. In L. T. Wong & A. Dubey-Jhaveri (Eds.), English language education in a global world: Practices, issues and challenges (pp. 69–80). New York: Nova Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  34. Sadeghi, A., Everatt, J., & McNeill, B. (2016). A simple model of Persian reading. Writing Systems Research, 8(1), 44–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sadeghi, A., Everatt, J., McNeill, B., & Rezaei, A. (2014). Text processing in English-Persian bilingual children: A bilingual view on the Simple Model of Reading. Educational and Child Psychology, 31(2), 45–56.Google Scholar
  36. Semel, E., Wiig, E. H., & Secord, W. A. (2006). Clinical evaluation of language fundamentals (4th ed.). San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  37. Share, D. L. (2008). On the Anglocentricities of current reading research and practice: The perils of overreliance on an ‘outlier’ orthography. Psychological Bulletin, 134(4), 584–615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Singh, P. (2010). Sidhantik Bhasha Vigyan. Patila, India: Madaan Publications.Google Scholar
  39. Singh, P., & Lehal, G. S. (2010). Corpus based statistical analysis of Punjabi syllables for preparation of Punjabi speech database. International Journal of Intelligent Computing Research, 1(3), 2042–4655.Google Scholar
  40. Sparks, R. L., Patton, J., Ganschow, L., & Humbach, N. (2012). Do L1 reading achievement and L1 print exposure contribute to the prediction of L2 proficiency? Language Learning, 62(2), 473–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Torppa, M., Poikkeus, A., Laakso, M., Eklund, K., & Lyytinen, H. (2006). Predicting delayed letter knowledge development and its relation to Grade 1 reading achievement among children with and without familial risk for dyslexia. Developmental Psychology, 42(6), 1128–1142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tunmer, W. E., & Chapman, J. W. (2012). The simple view of reading redux: Vocabulary knowledge and the independent components hypothesis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 45(5), 453–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Vaid, J., & Gupta, A. (2002). Exploring word recognition in a semi-alphabetic script: The case of Devanagari. Brain and Language, 81(1–3), 679–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Woodcock, R. W., McGrew, K. S., & Mather, N. (2001). Woodcock-Johnson III. Rolling Meadows, IL: Riverside.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seema Gautam
    • 1
    Email author
  • John Everatt
    • 1
  • Amir Sadeghi
    • 2
  • Brigid McNeill
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Teacher Education, College of Education, Health and Human DevelopmentUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of English Language TeachingIslamic Azad UniversityDamavandIran

Personalised recommendations