The acquisition of Setswana segmental phonology in children aged 3.0–6.0 years: A cross-sectional study

Olebeng Olive Mahura, Michelle Pascoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This paper describes typical speech development of Setswana. Although there is information on Setswana phonology, very little is known about the acquisition of segmental phonology in this language.

Method: An assessment tool was devised to collect speech samples from 36 first language Setswana-speaking children aged 3.0–6.0 years in the North-West Province of South Africa. This study describes the acquisition of consonants, vowels, syllable structures and phonological processes at various ages.

Result: Findings indicate a relatively early acquisition of consonants, although trill /r/ continues to develop after 6.0 years, particularly in the penultimate syllable. Phonological features such as rounding develop in the later pre-school years. Findings also suggest that girls may achieve accuracy before boys. The older group of children presented with fewer phonological processes. Processes found in the speech of younger children included deletion of syllables, gliding, assimilation and simplifying complex words.

Conclusion: These findings are discussed in relation to normative data from other languages, in particular to those belonging to the same language group. Knowledge of Setswana development will help Speech-Language Pathologists working with Setswana-speaking children to identify and manage phonological difficulties in this population. The results contribute to an increasing body of locally relevant information on typical phonological development.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Early online date06 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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