Levels of Phonological Awareness
Rebecca Treiman Psychology Department Wayne State University
Andrea Zukowski Psychology Department University of Rochester
To better understand the relationship between phonological awareness and reading, we need to know more about each of these processes (e.g., Bertelson, 1986). To understand reading, for example, we must tease apart its various components. In so doing, we may find that phonological awareness is more closely related to some aspects of reading -- such as the ability to decipher unknown words -- than to other aspects -- such as the recognition of familiar words (e.g., Baron & Treiman, 1980). We also need to disentangle the components of phonological awareness. It is this latter point on which we focus here.
The title of this chapter, "Levels of phonological awareness," has at least two possible interpretations. "Levels" can refer to degree of explicit awareness. Some phonological awareness tasks seem to require a deeper awareness than others. For example, children have more difficulty manipulating the phonemes in a word, as in saying "sun" backwards, than in recognizing that "sun" contains "s," "u," and "n" (e.g., Yopp, 1988). Alternatively, "levels" can refer to linguistic level. Just as children's performance depends on the cognitive demands of the task, so it depends on the linguistic level that the task taps. For example, tasks that require children to segment speech at the level of words seem to be easier than tasks that require children to segment speech at the level of phonemes (e.g., Fox & Routh, 1975).
Whether we take the term levels to refer to cognitive levels or linguistic levels, the general point remains: Linguistic awareness is a continuum, not an all-or-none phenomenon. Performance on phonological awareness tasks