Word chopping (ages 8-10) / Segments (age 11)

Word chopping / Segments is a test of general phonological processing abilities requiring deletion of segments of words. For example, ‘dragonfly’ without the syllable ‘on’ would be pronounced ‘drag´fly’.

As children learn to talk they develop increasingly sophisticated cognitive representations for phonological aspects of speech. They become aware that words can be segmented into syllables (e.g. that ‘wigwam’ is composed of ‘wig’ and ‘wam’), and that different words can contain similar elements (i.e. similar onsets like w-ig and w-am, or similar rhymes like w-ig and d-ig). The importance of this phonological awareness for early literacy development has been very well demonstrated in research (Snowling, 1995; Goswami, 1994, 1999, 2001; Goswami and Bryant, 1990; Rack, 1994; Savage, 2001; Ziegler and Goswami, 2005). Phonological awareness in very young children is often assessed by means of an ‘oddity task’ in which the child has to pick out the one which is different from a list of similar sounding words, e.g. ‘mop, hop, tap, lop’; ‘ham, tap, had, hat’ (Bradley and Bryant, 1983; Bradley, 1980; Goswami, 2012). However, phonological deletion tasks, such as Word chopping / Segments, have been found to be more sensitive measures for use with older children (Snowling, 2000; Landerl et al., 2013).

Dyslexic children are known generally to have poor phonological skills (Rack, Snowling and Olson, 1992; Holligan and Johnston, 1988). In the phonological deficit model of dyslexia (Hulme and Snowling, 1991; Snowling, 1995, 2000) it has been hypothesised that the status of children’s underlying phonological representations determines the ease with which they learn to read, and that the poorly developed phonological representations of dyslexic children are the fundamental cause of their literacy difficulties. In the CoPS research the Rhymes subtest was found to be a highly significant predictor of later literacy skill (Singleton, Thomas and Horne, 2000).

There is good evidence that individuals of all ages with dyslexia have persistent difficulties with phonological deletion tasks (Bruck, 1990, 1992; Gottardo, Siegel and Stanovich, 1997; Snowling, 2000; Vellutino et al, 2004; Jimenez, et al., 2010). Low performance on Word chopping / Segments is therefore a good indication of dyslexia. However, as with Funny words / Non-words, teachers should be aware that students with hearing problems may also have low scores on Word chopping / Segments.