The acquisition of phoneme awareness in children learning the hiragana syllabary

Abstract

In research on the acquisition of reading, there have been some cross-orthographic comparisons between alphabetic scripts and the hiragana syllabic script. One of the theoretical motives for these comparisons is the hypothesis that phonological awareness is related to the size of the phonological unit mapped by the orthography, with phoneme awareness limited to readers with alphabetic literacy. Therefore, it would be expected that young Japanese children who learn the hiragana syllabary (and no alphabetic orthography) would have poor awareness of phonemes, which are internal to syllables. The present research used methods more fully representative of the language and orthography examined. The results indicate a previous underestimation of early phonemic awareness in Japanese children.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the kindergarten directors, school principals, teachers, parents and children in Japan who participated in this study, and Professor Jun-ichi Abe for his encouragement and support. We also are grateful to Kane Meissel, Ai Uemiya, Tomoko Miwa, Midori Shibata, Elle Flinn, Toshinori Yasuda, Rie Matsunaga, Yuko Yamasaki, Sayaka Fujimoto, Yoko Mori, Tomoko Nakata, Tomomi Tajima, Yuichi Kaji, Hitomi Yamasaki, Kumiko Takeda, Akira Toyomura, Kumiko Miyawaki and Hiromi Arimoto who collected some of the data for this study and/or helped with scoring, and Lynne Parmenter for helpful comments on the manuscript. This research was supported by a Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Invitation Fellowship to the first author (L-05501).

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Correspondence to Claire M. Fletcher-Flinn.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 2 Items in the Japanese phoneme identity task

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Fletcher-Flinn, C.M., Thompson, G.B., Yamada, M. et al. The acquisition of phoneme awareness in children learning the hiragana syllabary. Read Writ 24, 623–633 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-010-9257-8

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Keywords

  • Phoneme awareness
  • Hiragana syllabary
  • Cross-orthographic research
  • Methodology