Световен конгрес по логопедия 2010

22-26 август, Атина, 28 конгрес на Световната асоциация по логопедия и фониатрия (IALP- International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics)


Katerina Atanasova Shtereva

Speech and Language Therapist

‘St. Kliment Ohridski’ University of Sofia


This study examines the components of phonological awareness of the Bulgarian children and the factor structure of this phenomenon. The following characteristics of the Bulgarian children are: lower scores of rhyming, almost identical results for segmentation of words and sentences, and high average results by the items of manipulation. Results: Rapid naming is a separate factor in phonological structure.


Phonological awareness is a widely accepted term and is used as an „umbrella” term, labelling all levels of aware cognition about the sound elements in speech. This term refers to a general appreciation of the sounds of speech as distinct from their meaning (Clark & Uhry, 1995).

Adams (1990) operationally categorized phonological awareness into five different tasks, including knowledge of rhymes, sound categorization, blending, segmentation, and manipulation. Skills that represent children’s phonological awareness lie on a continuum of complexity (Chard & Dickson, 1999). At the less complex end of the continuum are activities such as initial rhyming and rhyming songs as well as sentence segmentation that demonstrates an awareness that speech can be broken down into individual words. At the center of the continuum are activities related to segmenting words into syllables and blending syllables into words. Next are activities such as segmenting words into onsets and rimes and blending onsets and rimes into words. Finally, the most sophisticated level of phonological awareness is phonemic awareness.

The phonological awareness is accepted as a unified cognitive ability, which is manifested by the behaviour through various abilities. Anthony characterizes this sequence with the following regularity: First, with the growth of age children become more sensitive to the smaller parts of the words. Secondly, children can identify similar and different sounds within a word, before they are able to manipulate with sounds. Lastly, children refine their abilities of the already gained task of the phonological awareness simultaneously with the studying of the next more difficult level of phonological awareness. Although, the rate that speakers of different languages progress through (the sequence and the proficiency), varies at each level (Anthony, 2005).

Here there are some examples. Vowel and consonant harmony are likely to influence on the development of phoneme awareness (Durgunoglu, Oney, 1999). Saliency and complexity of onsets in spoken language may influence on the development of onset awareness and phoneme awareness. Karpova (1987, by Tsenova, 2008) determines about the Russian phonological system that only 22% from 5-7-year-old children can separate consonants as well as vowels in words. Caravolas and Bruck (1993) found preliterate English-speaking children were better than preliterate Czechspeaking children at isolating single onsets (onsets with one consonant), which is an onset–rime awareness skill. Another conclusion is that children in linguistic environments where spoken syllables are highly salient, as determined by a number of factors, develop syllable awareness sooner than children in linguistic environments where syllables are less salient (Demont & Gombert, 1996, Stoyanova, 2009). According to the examinations of Lipovska, connected with the Polish phonological system (by Germakovskay, 2005), a normally developing child manages to make a syllable analysis and synthesis of words and to differentiate auditorily quasi-homonyms in its mother tongue round the fourth year. The development of phoneme awareness is also affected by articulatory factors that contribute to the linguistic complexity of words. Data on the articulatory complexity of the Bulgarian sounds we can get from Tsenova (2008).

Traditionally, rapid-naming skills (measures of automatic color, object, number, or letter naming) have been considered as a part of phonological skills (Torgesen, Wagner, Rashotte, Burgess & Hecht, 1997). Wolf and her colleagues provided evidence that a naming-speed deficit is another core deficit, along with a phonological processing deficit (Double-Deficit Hypothesis), by showing a modest correlation between the variability of phonological awareness and rapid-naming (Wolf et al., 2000). Researchers argued that even though rapid naming may rely on and share variance with some phonological tests, some aspects of rapid naming such as speed of processing and sensitivity to temporally ordered information cannot be explained by phonological processing (Manis et al., 1999).

In conclusion, phonological awareness follows the common sequence of development, characteristic of different language systems, but it passes through specific variants of sequence and gaining experience, determined by the characteristics of single language.


The aim of this study is to examine the components that form the phonological awareness of the Bulgarian children from 4 to 7 years old and their continuum in degrees of complexity and on the other hand what the factor structure is based on 18 used subtests included in the present procedure of studying this phenomenon.


Participants of the study include 137 Bulgarian children aged between 4 and 7 years (72 boys – 53% and 66 girls – 47%). Certain restrictions are included – the Bulgarian language is essential for children and they haven’t special educational needs.

Criteria of selection of implements cover: five types of tasks: rhyme, sound categorization, blending, segmenting, and manipulation; two response method – „recognition” and „production”; sound representation – oral representation and picture representation.; linguistic unit – sentence, words, multisyllable, single-syllable, onset-rime, phoneme; phoneme position – beginning, middle, end; phonological properties – variety of phoneme, phoneme combination, syllable, lexical and sentence structures.

Assessment Battery – Several instruments were taken directly from previous research and some were created specifically for the present study by its author and are the basis of her doctoral dissertation.

І. Rhyme – Test 1: Rhyme Recognition – The child was asked to recognize whether two orally presented words rhymed. Теst 2: Rhyme Production – It was composed of 10 items that ask the child to produce a rhyme when given a stimulus word.

ІІ. Classification – Test 3, 4, 5: Identification of phoneme (beginning, middle and end position). The child was required to orally produce the sounds (beginning, middle and end position) in the word. Теst 6, 7: Categorization of phoneme (beginning and end position) – this 10-item measure asked children to identify one picture out of three that had the same initial/ending phoneme as a target picture.. Test 8, 9: Categorization Production (beginning and end position). The child was asked to produce an oral response to a specific linguistic unit.

ІІІ. Manipulation Recognition – Теst 10 and 11 (syllable, phoneme): The examiner presented the child with four pictures and identified each of them. The examiner then asked the child to mark the picture that showed the word that would become when a specific linguistic unit was removed (syllable, phoneme).

ІV. Blending Recognition – Теst 12 and 13 (syllable, phoneme): The examiner identified four pictures for the child. Next, the examiner spoke the stimulus linguistic units (syllable, phoneme) at a rate of one unit per second. The child was required to mark the picture that depicted the stimulus linguistic units when blended together.

V. Segmenting Recognition – Тест 14, 15 и 16 (sentence, syllable, phoneme). The examiner made an utterance, presented by pictures (sentence, syllable, phoneme), and the child recognized the number of words, syllable and phonemes articulated by tapping a pencil on a hard surface. For example, the examiner stated, “Tap this pencil for every …”. Partial point was not given.

VІ. Rapid Serial Naming Production – Test 17 and Test 18: Colors and Objects. This tests ware modelled after Denckla and Rudel. This test required the child to identify black, blue, red, green, and yellow squares or 5 objects randomly repeated on a page. The entire test was 50 items (10 rows with 5 color or 5 objects squares per row).

The results are reported on individual test protocols, where correct answers are marked with “1” point and wrong – with “0” points. Children perform the tasks in two sessions lasting between 20 and 30 minutes. In carrying out statistical process is used the program SPSS. To test the common sequence in the development of phonological awareness in Bulgarian children, data from the descriptive statistics have been used. To check the factor structure of the phenomena studied (16 tests covering the five tasks of phonological awareness and two subtests about rapid automatic naming – colours and objects) is applied classic factor analysis using the method of main components – Rotated Component Matrixa and Varimax Rotation.

Results and discussion

By Table 1 is presented continuum of degrees of complexity of the 16 subtests of phonological knowledge concerning the Bulgarian children aged 4 to 7 years (from the easiest skill to implement the most complex).

Table 1- Аverage means of task of Phonological Awareness


Аverage means

Blending Recognition /syllable/


Classification Identification Recognition /beginning phoneme /


Classification, Categorization Recognition /beginning phoneme/


Rhyme Recognition


Blending Recognition /phoneme/


Segmenting Recognition /sentence/


Segmenting Recognition /syllable/


Manipulation Recognition / syllable /


Manipulation Recognition / phoneme /


Classification Identification Recognition /end phoneme /


Classification Categorization Recognition /end phoneme /


Classification Production /beginning phoneme /


Classification Identification Recognition /middle phoneme /


Segmenting Recognition / phoneme /


Rhyme Production


Classification Production /end phoneme /


In a more detailed overview of the development of phonological knowledge of Bulgarian children, we should note that the task of blending a word by its syllabic structure, while the most difficult task is to reproduce, i.e. refer to any word that rhymes with the model or ends with the same sound as suggested by the examiners. Children cope with the categorization of initial phoneme comparatively well, either by separating it from the word or by locating a picture that begins with the target sound.Interestingly, as noted in most research, Bulgarian children deal better with recognition of words that rhyme, but this is not the easiest operation for them, as it is, for example, by English speaking children (Chard & Dickson, 1999). This is most likely due to the fact that a much greater variety of sound combinations is manifested at the beginning of words in the Bulgarian language than at the end of them (Boyadjiev, Tilkov, 1999; Anthony, 2005). Of course, the reason may be held in the Bulgarian educational system for kindergarten children, in which there is no covered program for working with rhymes and rhyme-forms, unlike English.The present study also shows that by children of Bulgarian origin segmentation of sentence into words and segmentation of words into syllables are the next level components (in difficulty) that are almost at the same level. On the next hierarchical step are the tasks of manipulation with syllable and phoneme. Before the most difficult tasks associated with the reproduction of rhymes and reproduction of words with the same ending phoneme, ranks the ability of children to classify phonemes in the middle of a word.

As regards the results of the rapid naming it may be noted that the average values are 69.8 seconds. Bulgarian children aged 4 to 7 years cope with the rapid naming of colours (X = 69.5 s) at almost equal speed to that of subjects (X = 70.1 s).

There are 14 subtests when determining the factor structure of the studied phenomenon “phonological awareness” in the first factor with high functional weights (55.38%): Classification Identification Recognition /middle phoneme/; Classification Production /beginning phoneme/; Classification Identification Recognition /end phoneme/; Classification Categorization Recognition /end phoneme/; Manipulation Recognition /syllable/; Classification Production /end phoneme/; Manipulation Recognition /phoneme/; Segmenting Recognition /phoneme/; Classification, Categorization Recognition /beginning phoneme/; Classification Identification Recognition /beginning phoneme/; Blending Recognition /phoneme/; Rhyme Recognition; Segmenting Recognition /sentence/ и Rhyme Production. There are two tasks related to the linguistic level of the syllable as a second factor with high functional weights (7.27% similarity in the range of variability): Blending Recognition /syllable/; Segmenting Recognition /syllable/. As a third factor with a score of 6.08% of the total range of variability appear both testsfor Rapid Serial Naming Production – Colours and Objects (Table 2).

Table 2 – Classic factor analysis using the method of main components

Rotated Component Matrixa and Varimax Rotation






Classification Identification Recognition /middle phoneme/

Classification Production /beginning phoneme/

Classification Identification Recognition /end phoneme/

Classification Categorization Recognition /end phoneme/

Manipulation Recognition / syllable/

Classification Production /end phoneme/

Manipulation Recognition /phoneme

Segmenting Recognition /phoneme/

Classification, Categorization Recognition /beginning phoneme/ Classification Identification Recognition /beginning phoneme/

Blending Recognition / phoneme/

Rhyme Recognition

Segmenting Recognition /sentence/

Rhyme Production

Blending Recognition / syllable/

Segmenting Recognition / syllable/

Rapid Automatic Naming – Objects

Rapid Automatic Naming – Colors











































In this study it was ascertained that phonological knowledge and rapid serial naming are not directly associated with and they are not blended into one factor upon inspection of the factor structure of the studied phenomena. It is interesting that the studied phenomenon is realized in the ternary structure. Except the expected differentiation of rapid automatic naming of the basic levels of phonological awareness the results of the two tasks at linguistic levels of syllable / segment and blending / were also separated. This probably relates to the fact that Bulgarian language is defined as the language of “stress-timed” rhythm (Tsenev, 2007), similar to English, but not as a language with “syllable-time” rhythm, as is the French language, which determines the different role of awareness of syllabic linguistic level by Bulgarian children.


This study duplicates the results, defining the laws of common sequence of development of phonological awareness, proven through many tests, surveys of people of different ages, with different languages and reading levels. The presented study determines the following more specific characteristics of the Bulgarian children: lower scores in tests of rhyming, almost identical results when testing for item segmentation of words and sentences, and finally, relatively high average results by the items of manipulation (syllable and phoneme level).

The conclusion from the factor analysis that RAN is a separate factor in the structure of the studied phenomenon is confirmed by a number of convincing arguments from other authors. The opposite argument that RAN belongs entirely to the field of phonological processing is not supported by the current research.


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