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Literacy Acquisition in the Malayalam Orthography: Cognitive/Linguistic Influences within a Multilingual Context
Mimisha Nesan Amir SadeghiJohn Everatt

Reading comprehension is a complex process that stems from the development of decoding and understanding the written form of a language. Reading development largely depends on the typological and orthographical features of a language. Hence, research investigating the impact of different writing systems on reading processes and acquisition is needed to inform reading models and teaching practices across language/learning contexts. Malayalam is a prominent Indic language, but has hardly been studied in reading research. Therefore, to stimulate such research, the present chapter explains the orthographical features of Malayalam, considering these in terms of cross-linguistic factors that are important for reading acquisition. The chapter then presents a review of the relevant studies in reading, focusing on akshara orthographies and those recognising metalinguistic awareness as an aspect of successful reading acquisition, particularly in multilingual contexts. The chapter ends by arguing that phoneme-based instructional strategies should be usefully applied to Malayalam, despite its akshara characteristics.

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