Implications of alphabetical instruction on the development of phonological awareness

Date of Completion

January 1998


Language, Linguistics|Psychology, Experimental|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Psychology, Cognitive




For many years researchers have been investigating several aspects of reading and writing. One major achievement in reading research was to find a relationship between phonological processing and learning to read and write. However, there remain several questions about the nature of this relationship; for instance the nature of the effects that abilities such as phonological awareness have on reading and writing, and vice versa. The purpose of this study was to investigate the development of phonological awareness in relation to reading instruction. Specifically, the metaphonological abilities of individuals who learned to read in an alphabetic system were compared to those of individuals who learned to read in a non-alphabetic system. Performance on metaphonological tasks was measured for Japanese-Portuguese bilingual adults differing in levels of reading and writing skills in each language. Three groups were established according to self-reported knowledge in written language: literates in Portuguese and Japanese (group JP), literates only in Japanese (group J) and literates only in Portuguese (group P). Phonological awareness was evaluated through deletion and oddity tasks involving three phonological units: syllable (CV), vowel (V) and consonant (C).^ Results indicate that bilingual speakers who are not literate in Portuguese (group J) perform poorly on tasks that deal with phonemic awareness. However subjects in all three groups exhibited similar ability to explicitly manipulate syllables (CV) and vowels (V). Moreover, the correlation between phonemic awareness and reading and writing seems to hold only in an alphabetic writing system.^ The present results support the proposal that phonological awareness does not develop spontaneously with age. Furthermore, a critical aspect of the development of phonological awareness is exposure to an alphabetic system. However, a passive exposure to alphabetically written materials on a daily basis was not enough to promote phonemic awareness. Only exposure to explicit instruction in the use of the alphabet with emphasis on the manipulation of sounds of the words permits success in learning to read an alphabetic script. ^