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Auteur: Maryam DANAYE TOUS

Persian Orthographic Complexity and its Impact on Phonological Awareness: Evidence from Dyslexic and Unimpaired Persian Children

Abstract/Résumé: Phonological awareness is a meta-cognitive ability for perceiving and analyzing the phonological units of words. There is a mutual relationship between this ability and reading. Also, it is the most important factor that distinguishes between normal and dyslexic readers. In alphabetic writing systems, phonemes are represented by letters. All writing systems could be classified according to how much they reflect the phonological structure of their language. On the one hand, there are transparent orthographies such as Italian in which there is one to one correspondences between phonemes and letters. On the other hand, there are opaque orthographies such as English in which there is not a 100% correspondences between phonemes and letters. However, Persian is transcribed with a modified version of Arabic script. There are 6 spoken vowels in Persian.3 of them are transcribed by letters of alphabets (like English) and the other 3 ones are conveyed by diacritics placed above or below the word's spelling. Persian, in its fully vowelized spelling is very transparent in the direction of letter to phoneme correspondences. Persian children learn to read and spell words in their fully vowelized format only in their first and second year textbooks. In practice, the diacritic vowels are almost always omitted from the words' spelling. So, one could identify a significant number of words in written Persian that have a consonantal spelling only. Thus, two distinct spellings could be identified in Persian orthography, i.e., transparent and opaque. This particular feature of Persian orthography makes it a unique writing system to investigate the impact of orthographic transparency/opacity on cognitive processes underlying reading within one writing system. In this study, 29 developmental dyslexics and 2 groups of unimpaired readers matched on Chronological Age (CA) and Reading Age (RA) with the dyslexic readers performed on phonological awareness tasks including rhyme production, rhyme judgment, first and final sound detection, blending syllables and deleting syllables of both transparent and opaque words. The results indicated that dyslexics had significant impairment compared to CA and RA readers on all measures apart from rhyme judgment. Also, CA group had significantly better performance on transparent words compared to opaque ones on all phonological awareness tests, with the same effect only true on deleting and blending syllables for the RA group and there was no such effect for dyslexics. The implications of the findings are discussed.