Language can be defined as an organized system of arbitrary signals and rule-governed structures that are used as a means for communication. Language engages itself both receptively and expressively through reading, listening, writing and speaking. In order to attain optimal functioning ability in school and society, children must learn these elements, rules, structure and conventions of language system (Brandone, Salkind, Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2006)
A language system encompasses five structural components namely phonology, semantics, syntax, morphology and pragmatics. According to Brandone et al., (2006), "Phonology refers to the sound patterns that are associated with spoken language; semantics encompasses the words of a language and the meanings associated with those words; syntax describes the grammatical rules of a language (i.e.) how words combine into phrases and sentences; morphology refers to the rules that govern the use of morphemes and pragmatics is the use of language towards the goal of communication and to the adjustment of speech to audience". The acquisition of these components is complicated as the child should acquire these constituents more or less simultaneously. These elements are apparently inter-related and a child may exhibit communicative difficulties if there is an inadequacy in the development of one or more of these components.
More specifically phonology is the study of the function of an inventory of speech sounds in a particular language (Kaye, 1989; Kuiper & Allan, 2010, as cited in Ballard & Tahana, 2012). The specific nature of the phonological constraints characterizes the language. Sloat, Taylor and Hoard (1978) defined phonology as "The science of speech sounds and sound patterns" and stated that, each language has its own set of sound patterns, which is
Set of sounds used by a certain language,
Acceptable arrangement of these sounds to form words and
The various processes by which sounds are added, deleted, or changed.
Thus, phonology refers to the production or perception of speech sounds, and their organization in language.
The development of phonology refers to the acquisition of a functional sound system. The speech sound form and function are intricately connected to the child's overall growth in language (Bauman-Waengler, 2004). The acquisition of phonology in typical developing children (Templin, 1957) reveals that in the early years diphthongs, vowels, consonants, double consonant blends, triple consonant blends are produced in most to least accurate order, the consonants are produced in the following order (i.e) nasals, plosives, fricatives and semi vowels, the voiceless consonant elements are produced more accurately than voiced ones and by 8 years children produce all sounds correctly.
Studies reported by various investigators (Dodd, 2003; Locke, 1983; Stoel-Gammon & Cooper, 1984; Vihman, 1996) explain the process of phonological development in children. Yet there is no single theory that completely accounts for phonological development. Researchers have described phonological development using longitudinal (Smith, 1973) and cross sectional studies (Preisser, Hodson & Paden, 1988).
The development of phonology is influenced by two factors, the organic and the functional. Organic causative factors are those that are consequence of structural or physiological defects, neurological or sensory deficits (Haynes, Moran & Pindzola, 2006). Functional causative factors are those that cannot be explained by any defined organic causative factor. It includes individual or personality characteristics such as gender, intelligence, birth order, socioeconomic status, language development and motor skills (Hegde, 2001). One such factor, the birth weight which is the first weight of the fetus or newborn obtained after birth also plays a role in influencing the overall development of the child. Birth weight and gestational age have an important effect on fetal and neonatal mortality.
Low birth weight as defined by World Health Organization (2008) is a birth weight of less than 2500 g (5.5 pounds) and is observed to be highly prevalent in developing countries. The lowest birth weights that were reported in Asia ranges between, 2700 and 2800 gm in the Indian subcontinent. The incidence of low birth weight infants in India was 30% in 1999 (DHS 1999, reanalyzed June 2003).
Phonology utilizes the spoken sounds of the language and hence plays a pivotal role in literacy development in early childhood years. Impaired phonology has been reported to be most commonly associated with poor reading and writing skills (Goswami, 1990).
A study by Spek, Franken, Wieringa and Kuperus (2010) provides evidence that children with healthy very low birth weight exhibit poor phonological development when compared with their normal age peers. However, there is scarcity of Indian studies specifically addressing the phonological development in children with low birth weight (LBW). Therefore, ascertaining the phonological development specifically in at-risk population, children with LBW will assist in early identification and providing effective intervention for children with phonological delays.
Earlier studies (Lewis & Bendersky, 1989; Largo, 1990; Klein, 1991; Verkasalo et al., 2004;) have frequently explored only language delays and deficits, articulation problems, specific learning difficulties such as poor reading, writing and numerical skills in low birth weight children. hence this subjects warrants more investigation.
Need for the study:
The literature reveals equivocal findings on the development of phonology in children born pre-term, when compared to their normal peers. Differences in this can be attributed to various possible reasons such as method, selection criteria, follow up rates and age of assessment. While there is abundant of literature available on phonological acquisition in English literature, it becomes essential to profile the phonological skills in children with low birth in Tamil literature. Thus, this study is aimed to provide in depth knowledge regarding the phonological development in Tamil speaking children with low birth weight.
The intent of this study therefore, was to profile the phonological skills in Tamil speaking children between 3 to 4 years of chronological age with low birth weight.
The specific objectives of the study were to profile the phonological skills in Tamil speaking children with very low birth weight based on
Percentage of consonants correct,
Phonological error patterns (error patterns in the application of phonological rules)
Epenthesis: It is a process in which a schwa vowel (Éš) is inserted between two consonants.
e.g. black - /bÉšlak/
Stopping: It is a process in which fricatives or affricates are replaced by stops.
e.g. sun -/tÊŒn/
Deaffrication: It is a process in which affricates are replaced by fricatives.
e.g. chop - /sap/
Initial consonant deletion: It is a process in which the initial consonant of a word is deleted.
e.g. shoe - /u/
Fronting: It is a process in which an anterior or forward sound is substituted instead of the standard production.
e.g. key - /ti/
Backing: It is a process in which a posterior or backward sound is substituted instead of the standard production.
e.g. cop - /top/
Affrication: It is a process in which fricatives are replaced by affricates.
e.g. saw - /tÊƒau/
Lateralization: It is a process in which sounds typically produced with central air emission are commonly pronounced with lateral air emission.
e.g. see - /ls i/
Medial syllable deletion: It is a process in which any syllable in the middle of the word is deleted.
Gliding: It is a process in which prevocalic liquids are replaced by glides.
e.g. run - /wÊŒn/
Intervocalic deletion: It is a process in which the consonants occurring between two vowels are deleted.
e.g. pillow - /pio/
Assimilation: It is a process in which one sound changes to become more like another sound, particularly its neighboring sound.
e.g. book - /bub/
Cluster reduction: It is a process in which a consonant cluster is reduced to a single sound.
e.g. truck - /tuck/
Palatalization: It is a process in which a sound is produced as a palatal rather than as a non palatal.
e.g. soup - /Êƒup/