|Phonological awareness (PA) is the ability to analyze spoken language into its component sounds and to manipulate these smaller units. Literature review related to PA shows that a variety of factor groups play a role in PA in Mandarin such as linguistic experience (spoken language, alphabetic literacy, and second language learning), item type, tone context, musical ability, and talker variability. However, most of previous studies focus on the PA of Mandarin tones; only few studies have compared native speakers of Chinese and of other world languages on all levels of PA in Mandarin.
The present study is a factorial examination of the effect of various factor groups discussed above on all levels of PA in Mandarin (syllable awareness, onset awareness, rhyme awareness, and tone awareness) by four groups of participants with different linguistic experience, each group having 10 participants. The first and second groups
included non-Mandarin Chinese speakers with or without Pinyin alphabetic literacy. The third and fourth groups consisted of native speakers of American English with or without learning experience with Mandarin. Participants were given a syllable same-different task, an onset oddity task, a rhyme oddity task, and a tone identification task. Logistic regression and Chi Square analyses were performed on the responses to these tasks to determine the conditioning effect of different factor groups. Error analyses were also conducted to examine error patterns of the tone awareness task.
In addition to confirming the heterogeneity of overall PA established in earlier research, the results demonstrate the relative contributions of several factor groups such as alphabetic literacy, item type, and tone context and raises questions about the relevance of several others such as musical ability and sex of talker. It also provides implications for instructional practice.