Speech Acquisition in Monolingual Children Acquiring isiZulu in Rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
In South Africa, isiZulu is the most widely spoken home language. However, research on children’s speech acquisition in isiZulu is minimal and there are no published speech assessments that speech-language therapists can use to identify children with speech sound disorders acquiring this language. In our research we aimed to document speech sound acquisition of 32 isiZulu-speaking children aged two years, six months to six years, five months in rural KwaZulu- Natal, South Africa. An isiZulu speech assessment was developed and used to assess the children’s speech in terms of phonetic acquisition, word shape and phonological processes. In the study, the implosive, plosives, nasals, affricates and vowels were mastered by the youngest children. The click /!ɡ/, approximant /l/ and fricative /ɦ/ may be among the last consonants to develop: they had not been mastered by the oldest group. Two-syllable structures were mastered early while structures of four/five syllables were still developing at 6;5. Participants in the older age groups could produce target words more accurately and used fewer phonological processes. The findings are discussed in relation to normative data from other Bantu languages. Knowledge of isiZulu speech sound development will assist clinicians working with isiZulu-speaking children in assessing and managing their speech difficulties: an important step towards ensuring that speech-language therapy services are relevant to all children in South Africa.
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