Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



This study investigated emerging phonemic awareness skills and printed sight word recognition abilities in two-year-old toddlers using plain text and MorphoPhonic Face words on flash cards. MorphoPhonic Face words were used to determine if this learning process is enhanced when words are iconically represented to show the first sound and the word's meaning (purposefully creating idiosyncratic cues) using pictures superimposed into the letters. Sixteen (16) age-matched toddlers were assigned to alternate treatment groups and received exposure to both printed and MorphoPhonic pictured words three times weekly for six weeks. During each session, children were taught 16 sight words (8 in print only format; 8 as MorphoPhonic words). Words taught using print only to Group 1 were taught using MorphoPhonic words to Group 2, and vice versa. The subjects were compared for pre and posttest measures of emergent literacy and phonological awareness skills as well as word recognition under print only and MorphoPhonic conditions. Three instruments, were administered at pre- and posttest to assess vocabulary, alphabet knowledge, phonemic awareness, and language segmentation. In addition, four measures for word recognition were administered to assess word knowledge. A Home Literacy Questionnaire, assessing direct and indirect literacy experiences, was also completed for each child. Mean gain analyses across pre-and post-assessments revealed that two-year-old toddlers demonstrated significant improvements in early literacy and phonological awareness skills after six weeks treatment. It was also revealed that sight words learned under the MorphoPhonic condition were recognized more frequently than those learned as print only. Strong correlations between measures of literacy experience and gains in sight word recognition were evident. In addition, the toddlers’ development of phonemic awareness skills and gains in emergent literacy skills produced strong interactions with their direct and indirect home literacy experiences. The results of this study challenge the currently accepted view that phonemic awareness and early literacy skills are secondary language skills learned through explicit instruction. Instead this study supports that phonemic awareness, early literacy, and sight word recognition skills can be learned as early as two years of age via a natural language acquisition process in the presence of print-rich environments.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Janet A Norris