Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

John M. Clifton


This study examines the factors impacting how child speakers of two minority languages spoken in India, Bondo and Desiya, acquire phonological awareness of sounds in Oriya, the language of instruction in many schools in the state of Orissa. Previous research has shown that learners benefit from instruction that teaches how to analyze and synthesize sounds in their first and second language rather than repeat and memorize them. Learners also have shown better recognition of sounds when they are presented in minimal contrasts than when they are not. Previous research also recommends that learners benefit from learning only oral and aural skills in the beginning stages of acquiring additional languages. Bondo and Desiya speaking children often acquire Oriya in ways that do not follow these findings.

In this research, I prepared a set of oral/aural sound discrimination lessons to supplement language programs. An examination of the data from this study shows that when these lessons were used for at least two months, most students showed gains improvement in their phonological awareness of Oriya sounds. In my research, I discovered specific factors that seemed to relate to the development of phonological awareness. These factors are the teaching approach used in the experimental lessons, especially learning to contrast sounds through minimal phonetic differences; the learner’s existing knowledge of the Oriya writing system and vocabulary that was enhanced through the experimental lessons; sufficient cognitive maturity to handle sound discrimination tasks that required analytical thinking skills; and previous educational experience.

Data also revealed that the students did not show significant improvement in their production skills. Results from production tasks do show that learners have specific patterns of production that reveal developmental stages. Bondo and Desiya speakers approximate Oriya aspirated stops by adding frication, by producing shorter aspiration noise and by producing longer aspiration times before the vowel.

This research indicates that students are able to improve their perceptual skills when they receive lessons that explicitly teach how to discriminate sounds in the second language that do not occur in their first language. Further research is needed to test how students can also advance in their second language production skills.