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Does strength of phonological representations predict phonological awareness in preschoolchildren?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 April 2002

Loyola Marymount University
University of California, Irvine


Previous research has shown a clear relationship between phonological awareness and early reading ability. This article concerns some aspects of spoken language skill that may contribute to the development of phonological awareness, as manifested in rhyme awareness and phoneme awareness. It addresses the hypothesis that phonological awareness abilities are associated with measures that purportedly tap into the strength of phonological representations. We examined rhyme awareness, phoneme awareness, articulatory skill, speech perception, vocabulary, and letter and word knowledge in 40 children, aged 4 to 6, who were just beginning to be exposed to formal reading experiences in private preschools. The children also received cognitive tests and tests of reading ability. The results did not validate strength of phonological representation as a unitary construct underlying phonological awareness more generally, but instead revealed a selective pattern of associations between spoken language tasks and aspects of phonological awareness. Speech perception was closely associated with rhyme awareness measures when age, vocabulary, and letter knowledge were controlled. Children with a less developed sense of rhyme had a less mature pattern of articulation, independent of age, vocabulary, and letter knowledge. Phoneme awareness was associated with phonological perception and production. Children with low phoneme awareness skills showed a different pattern of speech perception and articulation errors than children with strong abilities. However, these differences appeared to be largely a function of age, letter knowledge, and especially vocabulary knowledge.

Research Article
© 2001 Cambridge University Press

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