Phonological processes are variations in the way phonemes are combined. Study of bilingualism in children is important for our understanding of language development. There is evidence that number of children who are acquiring a second language sequentially is increasing (Brice, 2002). Duchar & Clark (1992) stated that a Spanish-English bilingual child, who studied languages between the ages of 1.7 year & 2.3 years, developed separate voicing systems for two languages. Yavas (1995) studied the first 50 word period of his Portuguese/Turkish bilingual son. A study by Campbell & Sais (1995) on Italian-English bilingual preschool children shows their competency was nearly equal in both the languages. In India, a study on simultaneous bilinguals was done by Chengappa & Thirumalai (1972) on a Kodava-Kannada bilingual child who shows that the vowel contrasts were similar in Kodava and Kannada. Mala (2001) studied development of phonological processes in 3-4 year old Tulu – Kannada normal bilingual children. In countries like India, children are often exposed to more than one or two languages. There is a scarcity of studies on normative information on development of phonological processes in bilingual children in Indian context. Hence, there is a need of the present study.
The aim of the study is to study the development of phonological processes in typically developing 3-4 year Kannada- English bilingual children and compare the obtained results with the reports of monolingual Kannada speaking children of the same age group. Ten typically developing Kannada- English speaking bilingual children in the age range of 3-3.6 & 3.6 to 4 years, served as the subjects. Mother-tongue of the children was Kannada (L1) and the second language, English (L2). All children attended English Medium School for their kindergarten education, but the speaking language at home was Kannada. All children were exposed to English all the time at school by teachers and their peer group. Also children had a regular exposure to English programs on Television. Spontaneous speech samples of ten minutes were collected in both the languages (L1 & L2). The tasks were; General conversation, Story narration and Picture description tasks were given where the clinician used picture books and asked the child to describe what was happening in the presented picture. Clinician showed some flash cards of lexical items and children were asked to identify it and express the target lexical items. Articulation tests, Kannada Articulation Test (Ratna & Bettagiri, 1972) & Goldmann Fristoe Articulation Test (English) [Goldman & Fristoe, 1986] were administered. Spontaneous speech samples obtained both in L1 & L2 was analyzed to study various types of phonological processes and the frequency of their occurrence.
Results revealed a total of 14 phonological processes have been identified to be occurring. The most commonly occurring processes were fronting, cluster reduction, Epenthesis, initial consonant deletion, affrication, metathesis and final consonant deletion. The least occurring processes were medial consonant deletion, backing of stops, alveolar assimilation, stopping & backing of fricatives, and vowel unrounding. Medial consonant deletion, stopping and alveolar assimilation were the unique processes found only in one subject each. Further, results of the present study were compared with previous findings on Tulu-Kannada bilinguals (Mala, 2001) & Kannada monolingual speaking children (Sunil, 1995) of the same age group. One sample t-test was carried out and results revealed that there was a significant difference seen in Kannada-English bilinguals and Tulu-Kannada bilinguals for fronting, cluster reduction, affrication, medial consonant deletion and epenthesis. On comparing Kannada-English bilinguals and Kannada monolinguals, there was a significant difference seen in fronting, cluster reduction and final consonant deletion.
Results of the present study on commonly occurring phonological processes are in agreement with the study done by Stoel-Gammon (1985), Roberts & Foot (1990), Louke (1990) & Mala (2001). As the age advanced from 3 -4 years, Fronting, cluster reduction, initial consonant deletion and final consonant deletion persisted even at the age of 4 years because the clusters are acquired at a later age and also the acquisition of all phonemes is not complete by 4 years of age. As the age advances, the phonological process decreases because the acquisition of affricates and stops occur. Most of the phonological processes were less often in bilingual children than in monolingual children of the same age group. This supports the findings of Flege et.al (1992), Cambell & Sias (1995), Bruck & Genesee (1995), Bailystock (2001) & Mala (2001) on monolingual & bilingual comparative studies, where the bilinguals performed better in the phonological tasks. Hence, present study on development of phonological processes described the various phonological processes occurring in 3-4 year old bilingual children and also showed that the occurrence of phonological processes in bilingual children is less often than in monolingual children of the same age group. In order to build a normative data base for the development of phonological processes in bilingual children, further studies need to be carried out among different age groups and different languages. This building up a normative data would help Speech Language Pathologists to look at the deviant patterns of of phonological processes in language disordered population.
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