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Title: Early phonological acquisition by Kuwaiti Arabic children
Authors: Alqattan, Shaima
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This is the first exploration of typical phonological development in the speech of children acquiring Kuwaiti-Arabic (KA) before the age of 4;0. In many of the word’s languages, salient aspects of the ambient language have been shown to influence the child’s initial progress in language acquisition (Vihman, 1996, 2014); however, studies of phonological development of Arabic lack adequate information on the extent of the influence of factors such as frequency of occurrence of certain features and their phonological salience on the early stages of speech acquisition. A cross-sectional study design was adapted in this thesis to explore the speech of 70 typically developing children. The children were sampled from the Arabic-speaking Kuwaiti population; the children were aged 1;4 and 3;7 and gender-balanced. Spontaneous speech samples were obtained from audio and video recordings of the children while interacting with their parent for 30-minutes. The production accuracy of KA consonants was examined to explore the influence of type and token frequencies on order of consonant acquisition and the development of error patterns. The sonority index was also used to predict the order of consonant acquisition cross-linguistically. The findings were then compared with those of other dialects of Arabic to identify within-language variability and with studies on English to address cross-linguistic differences between Arabic and English early phonological development. The results are partially consistent with accounts that argue for a significant role of input frequency in determining rate and order of consonant acquisition within a language. The development of KA error patterns also shows relative sensitivity to consonant frequency. The sonority index does not always help in the prediction of all Arabic consonants, and the developmental error patterns and early word structures in Arabic and English are significantly distinct. The outcomes of this study provide essential knowledge about typical Arabic phonological development and the first step towards building a standardised phonological test for Arabic speaking children.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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