, Volume 23, Issue 3-4, pp 359-384
Date: 17 Oct 2009

Universal and language-specific constraints on phonemic awareness: evidence from Russian–Hebrew bilingual children

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The study tested phonemic awareness in the two languages of Russian (L1)–Hebrew (L2) sequential bilingual children (N = 20) using phoneme deletion tasks where the phoneme to be deleted occurred word initial, word final, as a singleton, or part of a cluster, in long and short words and stressed and unstressed syllables. The experiments were designed to test the effect of four linguistic factors on children’s phoneme deletion: phoneme position (initial, final), linguistic context (singleton, cluster), word length and stress. The results indicated that word length and stress confirmed previous findings in other languages demonstrating the universal validity of these factors. However, phoneme position and linguistic context gave rise to novel findings in the languages studied and provided evidence for language-specific effects on phonemic awareness reflecting onset-rime versus body-coda syllable structure differences. The results are discussed within the framework of universal versus language-specific constraints on phonemic awareness performance in different languages.