Article published in:Understanding Writing Systems
Edited by Merijn Beeksma and Martin Neef
[Written Language & Literacy 21:1] 2018
From abugida to alphabet in Konso, Ethiopia
The interplay between script and phonological awareness
This study examines the interplay between phonological awareness and orthography in Konso, a Cushitic language in Southwest Ethiopia. Thirty-two adults reading the Konso abugida but with minimal exposure to alphabetic literacy completed an orally administered phoneme deletion task. The responses were then examined using the minimal edit distance hypothesis (Wali, Sproat, Padakannaya & Bhuvaneshwari, 2009) as a framework for the analysis. The results suggest that the difficulty of a deletion was related to the way the phoneme was represented in the Konso abugida. Content-based error analysis of the incorrect responses gave indications of how Konso abugida readers’ processing of sounds is linked to Konso abugida sound-symbol relationships.The Konso language community is undergoing a change in their writing system from abugida to alphabetic writing. As abugida symbols primarily denote consonant-vowel sequences, the change requires learning new sound-symbol mappings. By examining Konso abugida readers’ phonemic awareness the study contributes to developing transfer literacy teaching methods from abugida to alphabetic writing in Konso and elsewhere.
Keywords: phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, abugida, alphabetic writing system, orthography, transfer literacy, Konso, Cushitic languages, African languages