South African Journal of African Languages

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Reading and the orthography of isiZulu

Sandra Land


This exploratory study aims to extend our understanding of reading in isiZulu, the most widely spoken indigenous language in Southern Africa, by exploring measurable aspects of eye movement patterns of a group of competent adult readers of isiZulu. In doing so, the study offers an exploration of the particular demands that Zulu orthography makes on readers, and offers a tentative profile of the reading processes currently exhibited by proficient adult readers of isiZulu. The study indicates that with an average reading speed of 815 lines per minute (lpm), isiZulu text takes more time to read than text in other alphabetic languages for which data is available. Relative to other languages, readers showed short saccades (4.05 letters) long durations of fixation (0.3 seconds) and more frequent regressions over spans of text (an average of 1 regression every 24 letters).
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