Authors: Taeko N. Wydell.

Article: Are phonological skills as crucial for literacy acquisition in Japanese as in English as well as in accounting for developmental dyslexia in English and in Japanese?.

Publication: Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science (Springer). (Published: 31 July 2023) 2023 | DOI: 10.1007/s41809-023-00126-2

[Full Text]


Extensive research has shown that phonological awareness including phoneme awareness skills are vital when children acquire literacy skills in alphabetic languages especially in English. Furthermore, research on developmental dyslexia (DD) especially in English has been conducted with research-informed/well-established definitions of DD. This is because compared to other languages, the prevalence of DD in English is high, and thus children with DD form a large minority group. These dyslexia research encompasses cognitive-behavioural, neuroimaging, behavioural and molecular-genetic studies. There seems to be a consensus amongst these researchers that DD manifests itself as a phonological deficit, and thus the phonological deficit hypothesis (as well as naming disfluency) for DD has become prominent in the alphabetic languages, especially in English. This is because print-to-sound or sound-to-print mappings in English are not always one-to-one and thus opaque/inconsistent. Now important questions arise in discussing how children acquire reading skills in non-alphabetic languages especially in Japanese where logographic Kanji and 2-forms of syllabic Kana are used: (i) are phonological awareness skills vital when children learn to read in Japanese? (ii) can the phonological deficit hypothesis explain DD in Japanese? These questions will be addressed in this paper by comparing the behavioural and some neuroimaging studies in alphabetic languages and Japanese Kanji and Kana as well as Chinese, another non-alphabetic languag. It seems that phonological awareness may not be as important for non-alphabetic languages such as Chinese or Japanese at the start of literacy acquisition. Phonological awareness become important skills in Chinese and Japanese only when children are older. Instead of phonological awareness other metalinguistic awareness skills are important for acquisition of reading in Chinese and Japanese such as orthographic or morphological awareness (Chinese), vocabulary size (Japanese), visuo-spatial processing (Chinese and Japanese) and visual-motor integration (Chinese and Japanese) skills. Also available neuroimaging studies will be used to uncover the behavioural dissociation and the neural unity in an English-Japanese bilingual adolescent boy with monolingual dyslexia in English.

Tagged as: chinese, Japanese, languages, morphological processing, orthographic processing, phonological awareness, visual-spatial skills, and vocabulary


Wydell, T.N. Are phonological skills as crucial for literacy acquisition in Japanese as in English as well as in accounting for developmental dyslexia in English and in Japanese?. J Cult Cogn Sci (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41809-023-00126-2

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