Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

ICES20 logo

Use the "back" button of your browser to return to the list of abstracts.


Aija Katriina AHLBERG, Addis Ababa University, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

As different types of script have different mappings between sound units and graphemes, reading in different scripts requires mastering sound-grapheme correspondences on different levels. Consequently, transferring from one script to another stretches the learners’ phonological awareness. Since 1993 the Ethiopian language policy has given a chance to language communities to choose between the Ethiopic and Latin scripts for their language. As a result, both scripts are used for Ethiopian languages, with some having orthographies on both – Ethiopic used before the new language policy came into effect, and Latin after that. Pros and cons of the bi-script policy divide opinions, yet the presence of two scripts side by side has created a special opportunity for comparative studies about the effects of an alpha-syllabic (Ethiopic) script and of an alphabetic (Latin) script to phonological awareness. Such studies are of high demand globally, both for their theoretical value and for their application to develop transfer literacy teaching methods from one script to another. The Konso language community is undergoing a change from Ethiopic script to Latin script, and a transfer literacy program has been launched for readers of Konso in Ethiopic script to learn the new orthography using Latin script. Drawing from results of Konso transfer literacy learners’ phonological awareness tests, this paper examines the interplay between script and phonological awareness, and its consequences for transfer literacy learning from alpha-syllabic to alphabetic script. The results indicate a close link between the grapheme-sound correspondences of Ethiopic script and the learners’ phonological awareness, resulting in specific error types in reading and spelling tasks using the new orthography. This points to the importance of basing transfer literacy teaching on the learners’ existing phonological awareness skills and building them up to match the sound-grapheme relationships of the new script.