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Phonological development of typically developing Kuwaiti Arabic-speaking preschoolers Ayyad, Hadeel Salama


This study documents the development of the phonological skills of typically developing Kuwaiti Arabic-speaking preschool-age children and lays the foundation for a speech-assessment tool for Kuwaiti Arabic. Kuwaiti Arabic is the spoken dialect in Kuwait. The segmental inventory of Kuwaiti Arabic is similar to that of other spoken Arabic dialects and that of Modern Standard Arabic, although with some variation across dialects. The current study used a standard single-word picture- and object-based elicitation that evaluates consonants and vowels across word positions, within a variety of word lengths and structures (88 words altogether). Speech samples were collected by the author from 80 monolingual 4- to 5-year-old Kuwaiti children and were recorded on an M-Audio Track II 24/96 recorder (Beier TGX 58 microphone). This age group was selected because previous research has shown that the Arabic phonological repertoire may be almost complete by age 4; thus, these children had reached an age where it would be essential to intervene if they showed speech delays. Children were recruited from preschools across the state of Kuwait in order to include all dialects and districts. The author, who is a native speaker of Kuwaiti Arabic, was the primary transcriber, with reliability checks conducted on 10% of the sample by phonetically trained transcribers. A nonlinear phonological framework based on Bernhardt and Stemberger (1998) was adopted for analysis of word structures, consonants and features. Preliminary data show that Kuwaiti preschoolers have a rich consonantal inventory across the places of articulation, including emphatic and non-emphatic stops, nasals, approximants, and uvular and pharyngeal fricatives. Some features appear to be still undergoing development. Several word lengths have been acquired by this age, from monosyllabic to four-syllable words. Morphophonemic alternations appear to be still developing. The data for relatively comparable groups of younger and older 4-year-olds were analyzed and showed developmental change across time. In addition, a group at-risk for protracted phonological development was identified which had notably less proficiency in phonological production than the other two groups. Finally, this study attempts to set some of the groundwork for the future development of a phonological test for Kuwaiti Arabic.

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