A. Background: An Overview of Language
The word “language” has two meanings: language as a general concept, and “a language” as a specific linguistic system, e.g., “French”. Languages other than English often have two separate words for these distinct concepts, French for example uses langage for language as concept and langue as the specific instance of language.
When speaking of language as a general concept several different definitions can be used that stresses different aspects of the phenomenon.
The word Language can be used as a general concept about the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or as a specific instance of such a system of complex communication. The scientific study of language in any of its senses is called linguistics.
The approximately 3000-6000 languages that are spoken by humans today are the most salient examples, but natural languages can also be based on visual rather than auditive stimuli, for example in sign languages and written language. Codes and other kinds of artificially constructed communication systems such as those used for computer programming can also be called languages. A language in this sense is a system of signs for encoding and decoding information. The English word derives from Latin lingua, “language, tongue”, this metaphoric relation between language and the tongue exists in many languages and testify to the historical prominence of spoken languages. When used as a general concept “language” refers to the cognitive faculty that enables humans to learn and use systems of complex communication. The human language faculty is thought to be fundamentally different and of much higher complexity from those of other species. Human language is highly complex in that based in a set of rules relating symbols to their meanings it can form an infinite number of possible utterances from a finite number of elements. The word language can also be used to describe the set of rules that makes this possible, or the set of utterances that can be produced from those rules.
All languages rely on the process of semiosis to relate a sign with a particular meaning. Spoken languages contain a phonological system that governs how sounds are used to form sequences known as words or morphemes, and a syntactic system that governs how words and morphemes are used to form phrases and utterances. Written languages and sign languages use visual symbols to represent the sounds of the spoken languages, but they still require syntactic rules that govern the production of meaning from sequences of words.
Language is thought to have originated when early hominids first started cooperating and adapted earlier systems of communication based on expressive signs to include a theory of other minds and shared intentionality, this development is thought to have coincided with an increase in brain volume. Language is processed in many different locations in the human brain, but especially in Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. Humans acquire language through social interaction in early childhood, and children generally speak fluently when they are around three years old. The use of language has become deeply entrenched in human culture and apart from being used to communicate and share information it also has social and cultural uses such as signifying group identity, social stratification and for social grooming and entertainment.
Languages evolve and diversify over time and the history of their evolution can be reconstructed by comparing modern languages and determining which traits their ancestral languages must have had for the later stages to have occurred. A group of languages that descend from a common ancestor are known as a language family – the languages that are most spoken in the world today belong to the Indo-European family which includes languages such as English, Spanish, Russian and Hindi, the Sino-Tibetan languages which include Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese and many others, Semitic languages which include Arabic and the Bantu languages which include Swahili and hundreds of other languages spoken throughout Africa.
B. Language and Its Parts: Sounds and Symbols
Basically, we can mention that language has three parts as well, semantics, sound and symbols and grammar. But we will focus this paper on phonic and the correlation between sounds and symbols.
When described as a system of symbolic communication language is traditionally seen as consisting of three parts: signs, meanings and a code connecting signs with their meanings. The study of how signs and meanings are combined, used and interpreted is called semiotics. Signs can be composed of sounds, gestures, letters or symbols, depending on whether the language is spoken, signed or written, and they can be combined into complex signs such as words and phrases. When used in communication a sign is encoded and transmitted by a sender through a channel to a receiver who decodes it.
Some of the properties that define human language as opposed to other communication systems are: the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign, meaning that there is no predictable connection between a linguistic sign and its meaning; the duality of the linguistic system, meaning that linguistic structures are built by combining elements into larger structures that can be seen as layered, e.g. how sounds build words and words build phrases; The discreteness of the elements of language, meaning that the elements that linguistic signs are built up of discrete units (e.g. sounds and words) that can be distinguished from each other and rearranged in different patterns; the productivity of the linguistic system, meaning that the finite number of linguistic elements can be combined into a theoretically infinite number of combinations.
The rules under which signs can be combined to form words and phrases are called syntax or grammar. The meaning that is connected to individual signs, words and phrases is called semantics. The division of language into separate but connected systems of sign and meaning goes back to the first linguistic studies of Ferdinand de Saussure and is now used in almost all branches of linguistics.
The ways in which spoken languages use sounds to construct meaning is studied in phonology, the study of how humans produce and perceive vocal sounds is called phonetics. In spoken language meaning is constructed when sounds become part of a system in which some sounds can contribute to expressing meaning and others do not; In any given language only a limited number of the many distinct sounds that can be created by the human vocal apparatus contribute to constructing meaning. Sounds as part of a linguistic system are called phonemes. All spoken languages have phonemes of at least two different categories: vowels and consonants which can be combined into forming syllables. Apart from segments such as consonants and vowels some languages also use sound in other ways to convey meaning, many languages for example use stress, pitch, duration and tone to distinguish meaning. Because these phenomena operate outside of the level of single segments they are called suprasegmental.
Writing systems work by representing the sounds of human speech by visual symbols. The Latin alphabet and those on which it is based or which has been derived from it are based on the representation of single sounds so that words are built up by letters denoting each a single consonant or vowel in the structure of the word. In syllabic scripts such as the Inuktitut syllabary each sign represents a whole syllable. In logographic scripts each sign would represent an entire word, but since all languages have very large numbers of words, no purely logographic scripts are known to exist. In order to represent the sounds of the worlds languages in writing, linguists have developed an International Phonetic Alphabet, designed to be able to represent all of the sounds that are known to contribute to meaning in human languages.
A. Phonemic Awareness
Every time we chant along to a favorite children’s rhyme or read aloud from a book like one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish by Dr. Seuss, we are helping children develop phonemic awareness. Notice the rhyme in the excerpt below:
Hop! Hop! Hop!
I am a Yop.
All I Like to do is hop
from finger top.
I hop from left to right
What it means
When children identify that the words hop, Yop, and top rhyme, they are developing phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to understand and hear that a word is made up of a series of discrete sounds or phonemes. For example, the word did is made up of three phonemes (/d/ /i/ /d/). This skill allows children to take words apart, put them together, and alter them. Research indicates that phonemic awareness is a strong predictor of early success in reading (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).
Marilyn Jager Adams outlines five basic types of phonemic awareness tasks tutors can perform with children (Adams, 1990).
1. Rhyme and Alliteration
- Listen for the two words that rhyme in a string of words like cat, boy, bat.
- Recognize examples of alliteration, such as Sally sells seashells by the seashore.
2. Oddity Tasks
- Listen for the word that does not rhyme in a string of words like sat, sit, mat.
- Listen for the word that begins with a different sound in a string words like boy, bit, man.
3. Blending Words and Splitting Syllables
- Listen to the word parts, /m/… an, and blend the parts together to make the word man.
4. Orally Segmenting Words
- Listen to the word dig, and they say the words parts, /d/…ig.
5. Phonemic Manipulation Tasks
- Replace one sound with another. For example, replace the first sound in cat with /m/ to make mat, or replace the last sound in bin with /t/ to make bit.
What to look for
As we talk with, read to, and play word games with children, notice behaviors that indicate development of phonemic awareness. Children show progress with this skill when they can:
- Recognize that words have different numbers of syllables. Example: Child can tap out syllables in familiar words.
- Understand rhyming and rhyme words correctly. Example: presented with word groupings (e.g. bed/head, tent/rent, tent/tub), child can pick out rhyming pairs.
- Blend words that have been divided into syllables. Example: The tutor says wa/ter and the child says water
- Rhyme word families. Example: cat, rat, fat, sat, hat.
How to support learning
Practicing phonemic awareness can be fun and inventive and helps improve reading ability for young children at risk for reading difficulties (Brady, Fowler, Stone, & Winbury, 1994). Children enjoy language and word games. As you work with children, let them make up nonsense or silly words; while the word gog may not be a real word, it does rhyme with dog. Here are a fewactivities to get you started:
1. Rhyme Time
Read a favorite poem or rhyme aloud, pointing to the words as you read. Ask children to recite with you. Once they are familiar with poem, ask them to tell you which words rhyme. Children will enjoy stomping their feet when they hear a rhyme and substituting new words for the rhyming words.
2. Round Robin Rhymes
Invite a small group of children to sit in a circle and make up a story that rhymes. Provide children with the beginning of each sentence and have them finish it with rhyming words. For example, once upon a time a dog went to the park with a (hog, log, frog, clog). They saw a cat with a ()bat, hat, mat, rat).
3. Silly Riddles
Give children a word and a letter, and ask them to think of another word that rhymes and begins with the new letter. For example, What word rhymes with dig and begins with /b/? Big.
B. Beginning Reading and Phonological Awareness
Learning to read begins well before the first day of school
When Ron and Donna tell nursery rhymes to their baby, Mia, they are beginning to teach Mia to read. They are helping her to hear the similarities and differences in the sounds of words.
She will begin to manipulate and understand sounds in spoken language, and she will practice this understanding by making up rhymes and new will practice this understanding by making up rhymes and new words of her own. She will learn the names of the letters and she will learn the different sounds each letter represents.
As she gets a little older, Ron and Donna will teach her to write letters and numbers that she will associate the letters of the alphabet with the sounds of the words she uses when she speaks. At this point, she is on her way to learning to read!
When she tries to read books with her parents, at school, and on her own, Mia will learn how to learn new words by sounding them out. With more practice, she will begin to recognize familiar words easily and quickly, and she will know the patterns of spelling that appear in words and the patterns of words as they appear in sentences. She will be able to pay attention not just to the letters and words, but to the meanings they represent. Ultimately, Mia will be able to think about the meaning of the text as she reads.
Where does phonological awareness fit into this process?
Key to the process of learning to read id Mia’s ability to identify the different sounds that make words and to associate these sounds with written words. In order to learn to read, Mia must be aware of phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest functional unit of sound. For example, the word cat contains three distinctly different sounds. There are 44 phonemes in the English language, including letter combinations such as /th/.
In addition to identifying these sounds, Mia must also be able to manipulate them. Word play involving segmenting words into their constituent sounds, rhyming words, and blending sounds to make words is also essential to the reading process. The ability to identify and manipulate the sounds of language is called phonological awareness.
Adams (1990) described five levels of phonological awareness ranging from an awareness of rhyme to being able to switch or substitute the components in a word. While phonological awareness affects early reading ability, the ability to read also increases phonological awareness (Smith, Simmons, & Kameenui, 1995).
Many children with learning disabilities have deficiencies in their ability to process phonological information. Thus, they do not readily learn how to relate letters of the alphabet to the sounds of language (lyon, 1995). For all students, the processes of phonological awareness, including phonemic awareness, must be explicitly taught.
Children from culturally diverse backgrounds may have particular difficulties with phonological awareness. Exposure to language at home, exposure to reading at an early age, and dialect all affect the ability of children to understand the phonological distinctions on which the English language I built. Teachers must apply sensitive effort and use a variety of techniques to help children learn these skills when standard English is not spoken at home (Lyon, 1994)
How is phonological awareness taught?
To teach phonological awareness, begin by demonstrating the relationships of parts to wholes. Then model and demonstrate how to segment short sentences into individual words, showing how to sentence is made up words. Use chips or other manipulates to represent the number of words in the sentence. Once the students understand part-whole relationships at the sentence level, move on the word level, introducing multisyllable words for segmentation into syllables. Finally, move to phoneme tasks by modeling a specific sound and asking the students to produce that sound both in isolation and in a variety of word and syllables.
It is best to begin with easier words and then move on to more difficult ones. Five characteristics make a word easier or more difficult (Kameenui, 1995):
- The size of the phonological unit (e.g., it is easier to break sentences into words and words into syllables than to break syllable into phonemes).
- The number of phonemes in the word (e.g., it is easier to break phonemically short words such as no, see, and cap than snort, sleep or scrap).
- Phoneme position in words (e.g., continuants such such as /s/ and /m/ are easier than very brief sounds such as /t/).
- Phonological awareness challenges (e.g., rhyming and initial phoneme identification are easier than blending and segmenting).
Examples of phonological awareness tasks include:
- Phoneme deletion (“what word would be left if the /k/ sound were taken from cat?
- Word-to-word matching (“do pen and pipe begin with the same sound?”);
- Blending (“what word would we have if we blended these sounds together: /m/ /o/ /p/?”);
- Phoneme segmentation (“what sounds do you hear in the word hot?”);
- Phoneme counting (“How many sounds do you hear in the in the word cake?”); and
- Rhyming g (“Tell me all of the words that you know that rhyme with the word cat?”) (Stanovich, 1994).
Beginning readers require more direct instructional support from teachers in the early stages of teaching. This is illustrated in the following example: The teacher model models the sound or the strategy for making the sound, and has the children use the strategy to produce the sound. It is very important that the teacher model the correct sounds. This is done using several examples for each dimension and level of difficulty. The children are prompted to use the strategy during guided practice and more difficult examples are introduced. A sequence and schedule of opportunities for children to apply and develop facility with sounds should be tailored to teach child’s needs, and should be given top priority. Opportunities to engage in phonological awareness activities should be plentiful, frequent and fun (Kameenui, 1995).
As children are exposed to written language, they discover that marks on a page stand for letters and words. You may have heard children singing the alphabet song like this: ellamenopee. With increased and consistent interaction with print, language, and books, children eventually realize thatthat the string of letters is really l, m, n, o, p and sing the alphabet song with greater confidence and ease. To read well, children need to understandthat written English consists of letters and groups of letters that stand for a series of sounds.
What it means
Phonics helps children understand the relationship between letters (graphemes) and individual sounds (phonemes). Children need to understand that the letter m stands for the /m/ sound, for example. Knowing these relationships helps children more accurately read familiar words, analyze new words, and write words. When children understand that bake is spelled with an e rather than bak, they are better able to read, spell, and write words like cake, lake, make, take and snake.
What to look for
You will begin to notice behaviors that indicate children’s growing mastery of phonics skills when they:
- Know consonant sounds
- Know that a, e, i, o, and u are vowels.
- Know sounds of digraphs example: /sh/ in shell.
- Know sounds of consonant blends. Example: /bl/ in block and /str/ in string.
- Know short vowel word families. Example: at, an, op, on, it, and in.
- Break words into syllables.
- Find familiar words within unknown words. Example: mat in matter.
- Substitute or add letters to make new words. Example: when asked to take away the letter t in the word tan, can the child say the word is an? Can the child put the letter t on an to make the word ant?
How to support learning
Children develop phonics skills implicitly as they hear good books being read and write stories using invented spellings. They also learn through clear and explicit modeling. A balanced approach allows for both types of learning. Here are a few activities to try:
1. Letter-Sound Cards
Make personal letter card with each child. Write the upper and lowercase form of a letter on one side of an index card. On the other side, help children draw, paste pictures, or write words that begin with the sound. For example, on one site write Bb. On the other side children can write, draw, or paste a bat, bee, or boat.
2. I Spy
Invite children to play a guessing game. Without revealing it to the child, select an object in the room and provide phonics clues to help the child guess what it is. For example, “I spy something that begins with the sound /t/.” keep offering clues until the child guesses that the object is a table.
Create a stack of cards with pictures that represent words beginning with two initial consonants that you would like the child to work on, for example I and t. have children say the word and match the picture with the correct initial sound. Invite them to think of other words that might be included in each stack.
Books with rhyme or alliteration
- Each peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
- Jamberry by Bruce Degen
- Miss Marry mack and Other Children’s Street Rhymes by Joanna Cole and Stephanie Calmenson
- Peanut Butter and Jelly: A Plan Rhyme by Nadine Bernard Westcott
- Sheep in A Jeep by Nancy Shaw
- Sing a Song of Popcorn: Every Child’s Book of Poems by Beatrice Shenk de Regniers
CONCLUSION & SUGGESTION
It is important to teach children improve their phonemic awareness as soon as possible. It is the ability to understand and hear that a word is made up of a series of discrete sounds or phonemes. This skill allows children to take words apart, put them together, and alter them. The successful of mastering this skill indicates how early a child can master his/her learning skills, especially reading.
A lot of learning style can be applied to help children in phonemic awareness, such as rhyme time, round robin rhyme and silly riddles. This can be so much fun and very helpful.
At this stage, the writer would like to suggest to the teacher some important points:
- Introduce children to phonemic awareness is an important task to do. This is the basic thing that will explicitly resulted in how much they will be success in learning language.
- There are so much technique can be applied in learning this thing. We can provide this learning in a game, so that children will enjoy and unaware that actually they are learning something serious beyond that games.
Elizabeth, Mary, (2010). What is Phonics retrieved: October 12th, 2010. From http://www.wisegeek.com
Reading Rockets, (2005). Sounds and Symbols: Helpful Article. Retrieved: October 11th, 2010. From http://www.pbs.org
Wikipedia, The free Encyclopedia, (2010) Language. Retrieved: October 11th, 2010. From: http://en.wikipedia.org
———————————————, (2010) Phonology. Retrieved: October 12th, 2010. From: http://en.wikipedia.org