Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Speech-Language Pathology

Department or School/College

Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders

Committee Chair

Lucy Hart Paulson

Commitee Members

Cindy Leary, Amy Glaspey


bilingual, emergent reading, phonological awareness, preschool, segmenting


University of Montana


Abstract Segmenting, the ability to pull apart words into their smaller linguistic units, is a known predictor of early literacy. This study investigated the segmenting skills (a component of phonological awareness PA), in bilingual English/Spanish-speaking 4-and 5-year-old children at the levels of syllable, onset-rime and phoneme. The results of this study were then compared to a previous study that explored PA skill development in monolingual English speaking children of the same ages. The comparative analysis explores how bilingualism impacts PA skill development. This study examined the segmenting skills of 31 bilingual students who attended a Spanish immersion school, the majority of whom identify English as their first language. The 31 monolingual students, with whom the bilingual data was compared, attended an English only school in the same community. The students in both groups were matched by gender as well as by age in months, ranging from 4 years to 5 and one half years of age. By age, the students were grouped into three categories according to six-month intervals (4.0-4.5, 4.5-5.0 and 5.0 to 5.5 years of age). Findings indicated increased segmenting ability for bilingual students versus monolingual students at the onset-rime and phonemic levels, but no difference was revealed at the syllable level. With age, there is evidence of an increased segmenting ability for 5-year-olds versus 4-year-olds at the syllable level in both groups, but no significant difference was detected between six-month intervals (i.e. between 4.0- 4.5 and 4.5-5.0, or, 4.5-5.0 and 5.0-5.5 years of age). For the bilingual group, findings indicated an increased ability to detect and produce segments at the onset-rime level in English versus Spanish; the differences in segmenting at the syllable and phoneme levels were not statistically significant. When comparing the segmenting abilities of both groups, this study revealed evidence of an increased segmenting ability in children who learned two languages (English and Spanish) versus those who learned one language (English only).



© Copyright 2012 Kate Lorraine McKay