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Connecting Early Language and

Líteracy to Later Readíng (Dís)Abílítíes:

Evídence, Theory, and Practíce



As recently as 20 years ago, leaming toread each of which has been sharpened ehrough

was not thought to commence until formal instruction and experience over many years.

instruction was provided 111 school. Accord­ Figure 8.1 illustrates rhe majar "strands"

ingly, reading disabilities were largely con­ that are woven cogether during the coutse

sidered to be an educational problem with of becoming a skilled reader. lt is customary

no known antecedenrs ar earlier ages. lt is to consider separately the strands involved

now abundantly clear rhat reading acquisi­ in recognizing individual prinred words

tion is a process rhat begins early in the from rhose involved in comprehending the

preschool period, such rhar cluldren arrive meaning of the string of words that have

ar school ha ving acquired vasdy differing been identified, even though those two

degrees of know!edge and skill pertaining ro processes operare (and develop) interactive­

literacy. Attention has chus tumed to ly rather rhan independently. (For a fuller

whether preschool differences in language review of rhis material, see the rccenr report

and literacy development are reliable prog­ of rhe Commitree on the Prevention of

nostic indicators, and perhaps direct causes, Reading Difficultíes in Young Children,

of later reading (dis)abi!ities. 1 review and 1998.)

discuss the available evidence from longitu­ Most children who bave trouble learning

dinal research that has examined such is­ to read in the early school years stumble in

sues, with particular attention to at-risk mastering the "word recognition" strands.

populations such as offspring of parents In Englísh onhography, the spellings of spo­

with reading disability and preschoolers di­ ken words are governed largely by the '"al­

agnosed with early language impairmenrs. phabetic principie," rhe notion rhat our

written symbols (Ietters or graphemes) sys­

rematicallv represent the smallest meaning­

The Multífaceted Nature of Reading fu! speech elements (phonemes) that make

., and Its Acquisition up the pronunciation of a word. (See

Adams, Chapter 6.} Ir stands tn rr-a son thar

Skilled readers are able to derive meanmg grasping the alphabetic principie will be dif­

from printed text accurately and efficiently. ficult if a child <loes not yet apprcciate that

Research has shown that in doing so, they spoken words consist of phonemes, beca use

fluidly coordinare many component skills, wirhour this "phoncmic awareness" the




(fac•s. concep!s. etc}


(breadih, precis1on. l.nks , etc ) Fluent execution and

coordination of word

(syntax. semanncs. etc.) reccqniucn and text

únre.ence. melaphor. etc)


(print concepts, genres, erc.)

1· 1

1 1


PHONOLOGJCAL AWAREJJESS .::;;c;;;y:;;::=;7j'���
(syllables, phonemes, etc}

DECODING (olphabebc principie,

speiling-sound correspondences)


(of farriharwords)

FIGURE 8.1. Illustration of the many srrands that are woven rogether in skilled reading.

child cannct truly understand what letters come more complex. Even if rhe pronuncia­

stand for (Liberrnan, 1973). rions of ali the lerter strings in a passage are

Recognizing printed words furrher re­ correctly decoded, the rext will not be well

quires that one learn and apply the many comprehended if the child (1) <loes not

correspondences berween particular Ietters know the words in their spoken form, (2)

and phonemes, so thar rhe pronunciation of cannot parse the syntactic and semantic re­

a prinred word can be figured out ("decod­ lationships among the words, or (3) lacks

ed "); matching the derived pronunciarion to critica! background knowledge or inferen­

stored ínformation about spoken words in tial skills to inrerprer the text appropriarely

one's mental lexicon enables the identiry of and "read berween the lines." Note that in

the printed word to be recognized. Phono­ such instances, "reading comprehension .,

logical decoding is the most reliable guide to dcficits are essentially oral language limita­

word recognition, but there are also plenty tions.

of exceptions (words such as "of," "two," A daunting fact about reading (dis)abi!i­

"choir;" and "yacht") whose spellings must, ties is that differcnces among schookhildren

wholly or in pare, be memorized outright. in their levels of reading achievemenr show

Finally, skilled reading requires that the strong stability over time, despite remedia!
1 1

processes involved in word recognition be­ efforrs rhac are usually made to srrengthen

1 1 come so well pracriced that they can pro­ the skills of lower achievers. {For a review,

ceed extremely quickly and almost effort­ see Scarborough, 1998). Only about 5-10%
lessly, freeing up the reader's cognirive of children who read satisfactorily in the

resources for comprehensión processes. primary grades ever scumble later, and

Although most reading disabilities are as­ 65-75% of clufdren designated as reading
sociated with deficits in phonemic aware­ disabled early on continue to read poorly

ness, decoding, and sight recognition of throughout rheir school careers (and be­

prinred words, reading skill can also be seri­ yond). In light of this continuity, there has

ously impeded by weaknesses in the "com­ been increasing interest in whether children

prebension'' srrands, particularly beyond at risk for reading disabilities mighr be iden­
1 second grade when reading marerials be- tifiable at early ages, so that steps couid be

Connecting Early Lnnguage to l.Ater Reading (Dis)Abilities

taken to prevent or ameliorate their difficul­ years of reading instruction. In a recenr

ries in learning to read in school. Of course, meta-analysis (Scarborough, 1998), I exarn­
early intervention requires rhar we know ined rhe findings from 61 samples, in which

whac early signs to look for in arder to iden­ a wide variery of predictors had been used
tify which preschoolers are most likely to by rhe researchers. Table 8.1 summarizes
develop reading disabilities. That tapie is re­ those results for three sets of skill variables:

¡;¡¡, viewed nexr. those involving the processing of prinr itself,

assessments of various facets of oral lan­

guage proficiency, and measures of nonver­

� Predicting Reading Achievement bal skills.

from Kindergarten Measures It is reassuring that che resuhs from pre­

dicrion srudies dovetail nicely with whar

� Mosr- research on the predicrion of future has been Ieamed from research on the cog­

reading abilities hns involved samples who nitive requiremenrs of skilled reading and

were first tested just prior to the start of the acquisition of its various "strands."
� schoolillg {in-thctfnited States, usually in That is, although visual and motor skills of

the kindergarten year) and who were rhen entering studenrs have been a tradicional fo­

followed up after having received 1 or 2 cus of readiness resting, performance on

� TABLE 8.1. Average Correlations between Kindergarten Predictor Variables and Latcr Reading Seores,

Based on a Meta-A.nalysis of Findings frorn 61 Research Samples

No, of Mean Median

Predictor variable samples
' '
Measures requiring rhe processing of pnnt

� Rudimentary reading: letter-sound knowledge

or enrire "readiness" battery 21 .57 .56

Lerter identification: naming of upper-

i!l$ and Iower-case leners 24 .52 .52

Print concepts: familiariry with the mechanics

and purposes of book reading 7 .46 .49

Measures of oral language proficiency
General language index: expressive and

� receptive skills 4 .46 .47

PhoDological awareness 27 .46 .42

ab Expressive ("naming") vocabulary 5 .45 .49

Sentence or scory recall 11 .45 .49

Rapid serial naming speed 14 .38 .40

� Verbal IQ 12 .37 .38

Receprive language (syntactic) 9 ::"S".37 .40

Receprive vccabulary 20 .33 .38

z, Expressive language skills 11 .32 .37

Verbal memory (digit or word list recall) 18 .33 .33

Receptive language (semantic) 11 .24 .25

Speech production (pronunciation accuracy) 4 .25

Speech perception (phoneme discrimination) 11 .22 .23

Measures of nonvcrbal abilities

Visual memory 8 .31 .28
Nonverbal IQ 8 .26

Motor skills 5 ',

.• . .26

Visuaf discrimination 5 .22 .20

Visual-motor integration 6 .16 .13

Note. Data from Scarborough (1998).


··�, '
- .·

such nonverbal tasks actually providcs Iirr!c because, unlike most kindergarten predic­

progncstic information abour furure read­ rion research, the chiidren's progres� has

ing difficulries. On the other hand, rudi­ rypically been observed cver severa! years

memary skills that ne in to rhe "word prior to che start of schooling. Such longitu­

recognirion" srrands--e.specially letter iden­ dinal research makes it possible to discern

tification and phonological awareness+-are drvelopmental patterns in the acquisirion of

among rhe best predicror measures. Like­ reading-related skills that may both shed

wise, early differences in the sorts of verbal light on theoretical questions and provide a

abilities thar make up che "comprehension" foundarion far dcsigning carly diagnostic

strands-mosr norably vocabulary, sen­ and preventive programs. Very briefly, che

tence/story recall, and conceprs of print­ highlights of each body of worl...e-are-as-fallc----­

have also been rcliable predictors of larer lO\vs.

reading. .

On average, howevcr; rhe correlations of--E- ¡ La

- ¡ · t
· · · · di ar y nguage 111pamne11
individual kindergarten pre retor measures

with future reading achievemenr are not Severa! dozen follow-up studies have been

nearly as strong {r s .57) as rhe correlarions conducted to look ar the short- and long-

berween firsc- or second-grade reading range ourccmes of preschoolers wbo were

seores and rbose earned 1 to 4 years Iarer (r diagnosed (and, in mosr cases, treated} ar

= .75}. In efforrs to irnprove predictive accu- speecb-language clinics (e.g., Aram & Hall,

racy, sorne researchers have combined 1989; Bishop & Adams, 1990; Carts,

kindergarten predictor variables to compute Fey, & Tomblin, 1997; Rescorla, 1999 ;

a multiple correlation wirh reading ourcome Storhard, Snowling, Bishop, Ch.ipchase, &

seores in their samples. When rhis has been Kaplan, 1998). Virmally every such srudy

done, the resulrs (mean R = .75) suggest that has confirmed thac pceschoolers with lan-

the predicrabiliry of future reading abiliry is guage impairments are indeed at consider-

abour as srrong from kindergarten onward able risk far developing reading disabilitics

as it is from grade to grade once formal (as well as far continued oral language diffi-

reading instruction has commenced. culties) ar older ages.

In shorr, the results of kindergarten pre·

1 diction studies suggest rhac tbe importanr

Fomily lncidence o
f Reading Disability
cognitive-Iinguisric srrands thar must be co­

1 ordinated in learning to read are racher se· The fact that reading disabilities tend ro "run

curely in place befare formal school instruc­ in families" has been established for nearly a

rion begins, such rhar children who arrive ar century, with h1gher mcidence noted among

school wnh weaker verbal abilities and liter­ rhe relatives of affected schoolchildren than

acy knowledge are much more likcly than in che families of rheir normally achieving

their classmares to expenence difficulties in classmates. Although family aggregation had

learning to read during the primary grades. not previously been examined in a p:ospec­

Tlus raises the next question: How far back tive way, I reasoned that having a parent or

in development can the roors of the various older sibling with a reading disability should

strands be naced? place a preschooler ar risk for experiencing

similar difficulnes, and that ii there are sorne

early antecedents to reading disabi!ities,

Predicting Reading from Infant and these could be discovered by following such

Preschcol Measures at-risk youngsters fcom an early age. Accord­

ingly, I undertook such a smdy in 1979 and

Developmenral relationships berween Jan· showed that offspring of parents wirh read­

guage and literacy abilities have been stud­ ing problems were indeed ar much higher

ied from early ages in rhree kinds of sam­ risk for d1fficulry in learning to .read, and

ples: preschoolers wirh eacly language that these childcen differed on language mea­

impairmenrs, offspring of adults wirh read­ sures from ocherwise-similar ar ages as

mg disabilities, and unselected samples of young as 30 months (Scarborough, 1989,

i or preschoolers. These studies of 1990, 1991; Scarb�}fough. Dobrich, &

y oungec children are particulacly va!uable Hager, 1991). Recently, ourcome results for

Connecting Early Language to Later Reading (Dis)Abilitie:,; 101

severa! similar studies have been reported 1. In these studies of younger children, as

that tend to converge with these findings in the kindergarten predicrion research sum­

{Byrne et al., 1998; Elbro, 1999; Gallagher, marized earlier; nonvcrbal skills generally

Frith & Snowling, 1999); Lyytinen et al., have been unrelated to concurrent or future

1999; Pennington, Lefly, & Boada, 1999). language and literacy levels, whereas verbal

' Risk estimares depend, of course, on the cri­ skills have been much better predictors.
. teria used to diagnose reading disabilities in Even in infancy (bírth to age 2 years), pedi­

adults and children; averaging across srud­ atric ratings of language milestones predice

' ies, approximarely 40% of offspring of af­ later reading achievement better rhan do

fected parents, but less than 10% of orher perceptual-motor indices {Shapiro et al.,
children (of otherwise similar backgrounds), 1990). Similarly, recent studies have found

develop a reading disability- (Scarborough, that elecrrophysiological responses of in­

1998). fanrs' brains to language-but not nonver­

bal-stimuli are correlated wirh language

' and reading abilities in subsequent years

Unselecfed Infant(Preschool Samples (Lyytinen et al., 1999; Molfese, 1999).

2. Somewhat surprisingly, in mosr cases

Rather than looking at particular at-risk
the magnitudes of rhe longer-term correla­
t populations, sorne researchers have sought
rions berween preschool language abilities
to examine preschool differences in relation
{at ages 2 to 4 years) and school-age out­
to future prereading and reading skills in
comes have been about as large as the corre­
entire groups of children from rhe same
' sponding shorrer-rerm associacions (in Table
preschools or birrh cohorts (e.g., Bryant,
8 .1) berween kindergarten seores and subse­
Madean, & Bradley, 1990; Bryant, Mac­
quent achievement.
lean, Bradley, & Crossland, 1990; Maclean,
3. During the preschool period, most ver­
Bryant, & Bradley, 1987; Molfese, 1999;
bal skills have tended to be well correlated
Shapiro et al., 1990; Walker, Greenwood,
with each other, both concurremly and pre­
Hart, & Carta, 1994; Whitehurst, 1999).
dictive!y (e.g., Anthony, Lonigan, Dyer, &
As in rhe research on selected ar-risk pre­
Bloomfield, 1997; Chaney, 1992; Rescorla,
school samples, these studies have found re­
1999; Scarborough, 1990, 1991) and have
liable associations between early abiliries
been good prospective predictors of kinder­
and larer prercading skills and/or reading
garten-age differences in phonological
awareness, letter knowledge, prinr concepts,

and other relevanr skills {e.g., Bryant et al.,

1989, 1990; Byrne et al., 1998; Lonigan,

Findings in Common
Burgess, Anthony, & Barker, 1998; Scarbor­

Although ir is customary to review these ough, 1990; Whitehurst, 1999) as well as

three bodies of lirerarure separately, here I wirh subsequent reading achievemenr.

want to focus on the commonalines among These predictive correlations have often

their findings. In reading these various Iiter­ tended to be weaker far measures of speech

atures over the years, I have been struck by than far other aspects of language produc­

the fact that the relationship between early tion and for measures of receptive rather

language and literacy development and later than expressive Ianguege (e.g., Bryant et al.,

reading achievement has appeared to be 1939, 1990; Chaney, 1992; Gallagher et al.,

similar in many respects and not contradic­ 1999; Lonigan et al., 1998; Pennington et

tory in any major way, despite rhe differing al., 1999; Shapiro et al., 1990).

goals and sampling procedures of the three 4. When several domains of deve!oping

kinds of studies. What follows is a Iisr of language {phonological, syntactic, lexical,

sorne empirical resulcs thac have been ob­ etc.] have been examined wirhin a sample,

served in at least two of the three kinds of the successful predictors of future reading

research samples. (There is a wealth of addi­ abilities usually have not been confmed to a

tional detail to be found m each individual single linguistic domain (e.g., Catts, Fey,

investigation, but a comprehensive review Zhan, & Tomblin, 1999; Rescorla, 1 9 99 ;

of that material is beyond the scope of this Scarborough, 1989, 1990 ; Walker et al.,

chapter.) 1994). It is often the case, furrhermore, rhar


reading outcomes have been besr predicted Scarborough & Dobrich, 1990). For exam-

by different sets of language variables at dif- ple, a 3-year-old wirh across-rhe-board

fcrenr ages wirhin longitudinal samples weaknesses in synractic, lexical, and phono-

(e.g., Gallagher, Frirh, & Snowling, 1999; logical skrlls might show a narrowcr range

Lyyrinen et a!., 1999). Figure 8.2, which of deficirs (e.g., in just one domain) a year

shows sorne findings from my longitudinal later.

sample, illustrares rhis phenomenon. At the 6. Even when rheir eady language

youngest ages, syntactic and speech produc- deficits have lessened considerably in sever-

rion abilities were most deficienr, relative to ity (or have disappeared entirely) by the

those of the comparison group, in the group time of school entry, children wirh a family

cf youngsters who subsequently developed history of reading disabi!icy and/or a histo-

reading disabiliries. Larer in rhe preschool-r-y-oÍ early language irnpairmenr nonethe-

period, however, the groups differed instead less remain at high risk for developing read-

in vocabulary and phono!ogical awareness ing problems at a [ater age (Fey, Catts, &

skills. Larnvee, 199-.S';Rescofía, 1999; Scarbor-

5. Similarly, when longitudinal data have ough & Dobrich, 1990; Stothard et al.,

been examined for individual children with 1998).

weak early language skills, deficit "profiles 7. Despite the relationship that has been

have actually been observed to change over found berween preschool language prob-

time wirhin individuals during rhe preschool lems and school-age reading problems, ex-

years (e.g., Bishop & Edmundson, 1987; ceptions to tbis trend have been seen in


-o o
Sentence .•·


" \ .



e 1.0 o
o .

• I /f::. - - - - - 2\. - - - - - - - -,D.
Pronunciation ,
• 0.8
tn ,

, º1
e Phonolog1cal
� ,
• 0.6 ,
3 ,
E ,
0.4 ,

-c Expressive

02 Vocabulary


30 36 42 48 54 60

Age ( mos)

FIGURE 8.2. Changes over time in rhe aspecrs of language that differcnriated preschoolers who be­

came disablcd readers from those who did not (Scarborough, 1990, 199la). Effect sizes for the differ­

ences berween the group means are shown for sentence complexiry (Indcx of Prcducrive Symax), ex­

pressive vocabulary {Bosron Naming Test), pronunciarion accuracy (pcrcenrage of consonants corrccdy

produced) and phonological awareness (marching of rhymes and initial phonemes).

J .


Connecting Early l.Anguage to I..ater Reading (Dis)Abilities 103

every sample. That is, sorne children with undoubtedly a bost of reasons. Here, I want

early language deficirs did not devclop read­ !º focus on a fe-:v facrors tbar, in my opin­
ing disabilities, and sorne children who be­ ton, may have impeded the derivation of

carne peor readers had not appeared to be firm conclusions from the extanr data.
behind in their preschool Janguage develop­

Correlation versus Causality
Taken ali togerher, these resulrs suggest We all have been taught that the existcnce
thar there is a great <leal of continuity be­ of a relationship between two variables
r, rween early developmenral differences and does not mean that one variable necessarily

Iater ones. On rhe orher hand, the data also causes the other. Establishing causation re­
suggest that the pattern of across-age conti­ quires experimental research in which it is
� nuities is not entirely simple or straightfor­ demonstrated chat manipulating the pre­

ward but, insread, presents sorne complexí­ sumed cause (X) does indeed lead to
· �
ties that mighr be overlooked were ir not fer changes in the presumed effect (Y). Such an
rhe fact that rhese phenomena have been experimental resulr, moreover, does..nauw,c_ _

¡; observed by different researchers in various out rhe possibility of reciproca!, rather than

kinds of samples. Sorne irnplicarions of just unidirectional, causation (i.e., that Y si·
19 these common fmdings for theory and prac­ multaneously exerts a causal influence on

� rice are discussed nexr. X).

With regard to reading disabilities, exper­

iment1l training srudies with beginning stu­

® Theoretical Issues: Present and Future dents have shown that there is a reciproca!

causal relationship between attaining

Ali the reseerch reviewed previously has phonological awareness and learning to de­
� concemed the issue of how language devel­ code print (Ehri & Wilce, 1980; Perfetti,

opment is related to rhe acquisition of lirer­ Beck, Bell, & Hughes, 1987). For the other
acy. Various researchers have recast and verbal abilities rhat are good prediccors of
narrcwed rhis broad question in different future reading achievement from kinder·
J ways, such as: What are the consequences garten age (Table 8.1) or earlier, however,
of early language impairment? Are little evidence is available yet to determine
preschool language disorders and Jacer read­ their causal status. Sorne language skills

il, ing disabilities two manifestations (differ­ may indeed play a causal role in the devel­

ing, perhaps, in severicy) of the same dinical opment of reading, but sorne may only be

condition at different ages? What are the "correlates" or "markers" that are charac·

� preschool antecedents of reading disabiliry, reristic of children who will have rroublc

and which ones play a causal role in its de· learning to read but that are not the reason
velopment? What preschool developrnents those children have difficulry. In fact, there
1" are necessary and sufficient for successful are indications that preschool training that

::í, reading acquisition? And so forth. Although successfully ameliorates early speech/lan­

these differences in emphasis have guided guage impairments is not effective in reduc­
w the selection of research subjects by various ing such children's risk for lacer reading

� investigarors, the data from ali such studies problems, as it ought to be if those language

are pertinent to explaining language-litera­ weaknesses are a causal impediment to

cy connecricns of ali sorts. For that reason, I learning to read (Fey et al., 1995; Statk et

� feel rhar looking at rhe commonalities al., 1 98 4 ).

among findings is helpful in addressing the­ At present, the most widely held view as
orerical issues. to the cause of reading disabilitii:s is that af­

!:! Given the wealrh of evidcnce now avail­ fecred children have a core phonological

able from longitudinal studíes of early lan­ deficit (often of constitutional1 usually ge·

guag� and literacy, one would think rhat netic, origin) that impedes che developmcnt
clear · answers to rhe quesrions of interest of phonemic awarcness and hence interferes

� would be rather easy to derive. Thrs is not wirh discovering the alphabetic principie

the case, however. Why has it been so diffi­ and with learning to decode (e.g., Liberman,
culr to answer rhese questions? There are Shankwei!er, & Liberman, 1989; Stanovich

.. i




& Siegel, 1994). Powerfo! and parsimo­ weaknesses, solely or in conjunction with

nious though this theory is, rt has been chal­ phonological deficits (e.g., Bowers & :X7"olf,

lenged for failing to account readi!y for sev­ 1993; Manis et al., 1999). There is no con­

eral empírica! rrends. For cxample, training sensus as ro the nature of the addirional

programs designed in accordance with the deficit{s), bowever, and empiricai support

phonological deficit hypothesis have not for the hyporhesized subrypes is fairly hmir­

been completely effective in preventing and ed. Moreover, proposed qualítative differ­

rrcatíng reading disabilities (e.g., Torgesen, ences have tended ro be confounded with

Wagner, & Rashotte, .l 997). .Also, sorne severiry of impairment. Although the notion

children who successfully overcome their of subryping is appea!ing, research spanning

initial difficulties in leaming to decode in re­ severa! decades has been rather unsuccessful

sponse to such instrucrion nevertheless srart in revealing consistent subgroupings of dis­

ro fall behind again in reading at a later abled readers, and I am not sure rhat rhe lar­

point (Slavin et al., 1996). Of grearer rele­ esr subryping hypotheses_y.ríllsrand_the..test­

vanee ro rhe preschool focus of this hand­ of time.

book are rhe correlarional data reviewed It is possible, however, to imagine a sin­

earlier, That is, severa! Íacets of verbal abili­ gle-deficit model of reading disabilities rhar

ry orher than phonological awareness have incorporares tbe strengths of rhe phonolog­

been shown to be equally srrong predictors ical-deflcir hypothesis and also accou11ts for

of Iarer reading, not just from kindergarten thc preschool corrdational data reviewed in

age but also ar much younger ages. Similar­ chis chapter. To do so requires, however,

ly, phonological awareness itself seems to be thac we Stop thinking about causaliry only

predicted as well by previous lexical and in terms of a "chain" of evencs that mflu­

syntactic abilities as by phonological ones. ence each other in turn (e.g., succcssive

Findings such as rhese suggesr that rhe deficits in phonological processing, attain­

phonological core deficit hyporhesis may ing phonological awareness, grasping the

nor accounc fully for the developmenc of alphabetic principie, and, finally, learning

reading disabilities. to read). As illustrated in Figure 8.3, al­

In response, proponents of the phonologi­ though sorne disorders progress in this

cal d é ficit hypothesis have argued cogently manner (e.g., the disease glaucoma), orhers

rhat deficirs in orher aspects of developing do not. The observable symptoms of

language all stem from more fundamental syphilis, for instance, do not constitute a

weaknesses in rhe phonological domain.. causal chain. Insread, rhe root cause is a

That is, even though other sorts of language persisting bacteria! infecrion, which pro·

deficits are predicrive of future reading diffi­ duces different symptoms at differcnt stages

culries, they are jusr correlares (or secondary of the disease. Note that knowing which

symptoms) rarher than true causes of read­ rype of causal model accounrs fer a disor·

ing disability (Shankweiler & Crain, 1986). der has imporranr implicarions not jusr for

The developmental parteros and relauve theocy but also far irs treatment. For a

strengths of the correlations, however, do causal chain, successive treatmen"r: of any

nor readily accord wnh this explanation. symptam along the way will prevem the

(Consider, fer example, rhe data in Figure emergence of ali successi,,e stages of the dis­

8.2.) Also, results of a recent generic analy­ ease. In contrasr, for a syphilis-like disorder,

sis of the herirabiliry of phonological aware­ effecrive treatmenr of a symptom will not

ness, general language abilities, and reading halr rhe progression of the disorder; in­

skills were inconsistent wirh rhis accounr stead, it is necessary to idenrify and rreat

(Hohnen & Srevenson, 1999). the underlying condition.

An altemarive approach has been to pro­ lt is possible also to emerrain a hybrid

pase moving from a single-defrcir to a dou­ model that incorporares both an underlying
ble-deficit (or; m principie, a mulriple­ condition ( e .g. , a genetic predisposition to

deficit) model of reading disabiliry. These have difficulty learning certain kinds of !in·

are_ subryping hypotheses, according to guistic patterns) thar is rhe root cause of a

whicb some children's reading difficulries series of different symptoms and sorne
stem from phonological déficits, whereas causal influences berween symptoms. Wirh

others' have their roots in different language regard tQ reading d1sabilines1 far instance,
Connecting Early Language to Later Reading (Dis)Abilities




ouhe ccnsucts !he dueto BLINONESS

acqueous blood supply to optic nerve

humor !he opte nerve damll{le



�-u'�º�'R_s_ -- b-�
''-"'"-:e'-'e:'�cl- -- -- DAWIGE


'--- ___)


��� SYMPTO;�

CONOffiON ___)

FIGURE 8.3. Models of possible causal relationships in rhe developmental progression of a condition
or disorder. (In variations of the hybrid modd, sorne horizontal arrows could be absent.)

suppose rhat successive "symptoms" in­ other srrands during larer stages of reading
elude deficits in early syntactic proficiency, acquisition, leaving the child ar risk far fu­
phonological awareness, and decoding of rure difficulties despire having attained ade­

prinr, respectively. Although there are siz­ quate skill in decoding. AH rhese predicrions
refi able correlations among ali three measures, from the model are consisrenr wirh the re­
the syntactic deficit might have no causal in­ search rhar I have reviewed earlier.

fluence on the subsequent developmenc of Differences in severiry of rhe underlying
the other two deficirs, but the weakness m impairment, furthermore, would lead to dif­
phonological awareness would indeed be an ferences in che number and sevenry of


imporrant ("proximal") cause

in learning to decode. If so, if a child is af­

of difficulty symptoms rhar are exhibited. Extrinsic fac­

tors (especially the quality of reading in­


fected by the underlying condition, treat­ struction) are sure to play a causal role too.
menr of an early syntactic impairment Hence, anomalous cases {successful reading

would not reduce the child's risk far reading achievement by a chi!d who had previously
� disability, but training in phonological been diagnosed with a language impair­
awareness would be of benefit in eliminat­ menr, olfld conversely, on!y subclinical

ing or ameliorating the child's difficulty in weaknesses in early language in a child who
learning to decode. lt would still be possi­ iater exhibired a reading disabiliry) can be
ble, however; that rhe underlying condition accommodated by the model, albeit not
would continue to exert its influence on wíthout costs in terms of parsimony.



Nonlinear Growfh andan preschool language impairments by the time

"Ascendancy" Hypothesis they enrered school. .

In more general rerms, when growrh of a

To explain rhe changing preschool deficir skill is nonhncar; deficits in that skill will be

profi!es rhat have been observed may re­ rnosr readily detectable during periods

quire anorher break from rraditionally lin­ when normal development undergoes a

ear ways of rhinking abour developrnenral spurr (e.g., when rapid!y developing chil­

disorders. Ir is fairly well established that dren are reaching the postspurt plareau,

growrh in some {perhaps ::i.11) componenrs of and growth of rhe slower developing chil­

language consiscs of spurts and plateaus ar dren may jusr be srarting to accelerare).

particular rimes rarher than steady incre­ Spurts in particular language skills occur ar

mental advances. If so, then a delay in ac­ different ages, on average (e.g., the well­

quis ition will ruean thar spurts and plateaus known vocabulary spurt, typically occur­

will .. occurcar ¡¡......fil!!!}e,yhªr_older age than ring ar about 18 monrhs, precedes the peri­

usual, as illusrrated by the dashed growth od of rapid acquisirion of morphoíogy and

curve in Figure 6.4. In such a case (depend­ symax from age 2 to 4 years). Therefore, ar

ing, of course, on rhc durations of plateaus any given time, conditions for detecting in­

and the degree of dela y), there may be ages dividual or group differences in a skill will

a t which rhe performance levels of delayed be besr when that skill is normally "aseen·

and nondelaved cases will be virtually iden­ danc." According to this ascendancy hy­

rical, a phenomenon rhar Scarborough and porhesis, furthermore, rhe milder rhe lan­

Dobricb ( 1 9 9 0 } rermed "illusory recovery," guage de/ay (i.e., the smaller the horizontal

Ir provides :
1 simple explananon for the oth­ distance between the dashed and salid

erwise puuling fact, noted earlier, rhar len­ curves in Figure 8.4), the more uansient

guage and reading problems often and domain-specific the pattem of observed

(re)emerge at older ages in children who deficirs will be. A severe delay, in contrast,

had appeared to have overcome rheir will be cbaracterized by a more persistent




platea u

.. - · · · · · · · · · · - · · · · · - �
- o
í •
• '--v--"

-¡¡; •
ID .
__, spurt recovery"







FIGURE 8.4. Illumarion of how non!inear development of language skills might lead to periods of "il­

lusory recovery" by children who had previous!y appeared ro be delayed. Data from Scarborough and
Dobrich (1990).
- .f

, Connecting Early Language to Later Reading (Dis)Abilities 107

and across-the-board deficir profi!e. {Note Practical Implications:
rhar what looks like a qualicative difference, Present and Future
¡j or subtype, would really be a quantitative

severiry difference.) If this ascendancy hy­ With regard to diagnosis, che risk factors
pothesis correctly captures the rneasure­ thar have been idennfied by che correlation­
3 ment situation far early language skills, al research on preschoolers and kindergarr­

t, chen che notion rhar a single underlying lan­ ners provide the best current guidelines far

guage disorder could manifest itself as a se­ designing screening barrenes to identify
ries of deficirs in different aspects of lan­ those young children who are most likely

tJ guage, each correlared with che next, is to develop reading disabilities. As noted

precisely what would be expected far mild­ earlier, researchers who have assessed
' '
- to-moderare severity levels. kindergartners on various subsets of such
;;; In sum, I believe that grearer" pOWec"and­ variables havr- attained high multiple corre­
flexibility in theorizing about che relation­ [ations wirh subsequent reading seores. Fig­

-----shi-ps-between-language and literacy devel­ ure 8.5 shows how well such screening bat­
:j opment can be obtained b-)-;-conSídering ar:­ teries have succeeded in rhe typical study of

ternatives to causal chains and linear this sort, in which 89% predicrion accuracy

growth assumptions. I have not tried to has been obtained in samples of about 200
construct a full theory bue, rather, to illus­ children. For most purposes, chis is a rea­

;'! trate how sorne interesting phenomena seen sonably satisfactory leve! of success. Note,

in the available literature can perhaps be however, that virtually every study has ob­
é1 explained more sarisfacrorily than ar pre­ rained few "miss" errors (i.e., children not

t, senr . identified as ar risk by the screen but who


Outcome Reading Status

Based on Achievement Tests


tJ 12% RO 88% NRO

<l) e
(; t <l)

17% 18 16 34 were predicted
v �
O) "'
rn at- (false to become RO;

¡] el
risk alarms) 53% of them did.
,) '2
� [31·75%)
e o
.. el


83% 6 160 166 were predicted

? 1 not (misses) to become N R O ;

t} o 96% of them did.
a, at
o el
) a, [91-99%)

"' m


' 24 RO: 176 N R O :
75% were 9 1 % were

predicted. predicted.

, [56-93%) [80-95%)
"Sensitivity" "Speclficity"

FIGURE 8.5. Typical results obtained by combining kindergarren-age measures to predict later reading
in samples of about 100 children. The ranges of values across studies are shown in brackets. RD, read­
1 ing disabled; NRD, not reading dísab!ed. Based on data from Scarborough {1998, Table A-7) .
,. 1





became disabled readers) bur a sizable pro­ should be a focus. The besr candidares far

portion of "false alarms" (children idenn­ addinonal componenrs of an intervention

fred by rhe screen as being ar risk, but who program are those suggcsted by the correla­

later achieved adequarely on rhc reading rional research, namely, print concepts,

measure). If early intervention is rargered at retention of verbal material, and oral lan­

all children designated as at risk, rhis means guage skills (cspecially expressive vocabu­

thar about half of rhose receiving ir might lary). Alrhough there is no guaranree that

not acrually be in need of ir. At present1 chis training in these skills will facilitare reading

is rhe most serious conceru associared wirh acquisition, rhis imporrant causal question

using such screens, uor jusr because rhe can be investigated rhrough follow-up srud­

1 costs of intervention are substantially raised ies of rhe efficacy of inrervention programs.

bur also because the possible negarive edu­ Finally, especially wirh regard to younger

cacional and psychologica! consequences of �t-risk preschoolers (especially rhose with a

mislabding "false alarms" are not known. diagnosis of language impairment and those

If this issue is handled senstbly, though, I with a family histocy of reading disabil1ry),

rhink a good case can be made thar early inrerventions based on an accurate causal

tdentification and intervcntion are warrant­ model are likely to be mosr effective in re­

ed. ducing risk far la.ter reading problems. Sim­

The available data also indicare rhat diag­ ply addressing these children's current

nosing risk is more problematic ar younger "symptoms" through conventional speech­

ages. The observations rhar language deficir language rherapy apparently does not re­

profiles change over time within individual duce such risk, probably beca use weakness�

preschoolers (as well as berween groups, as es in speech and language do not causally

in Figure 8.2) means rhat assessmenr at a impedc reading acquisirion, at least over the

single rime poim may be misleading as to shorr rerm. Hence, as Fey (1999) has urged,

how bread a child's Ienguage impairment proactive training of known "proximal"

mighr be. In the future, I believe thar diag­ causal factors (such as phonological aware­

nosric improvements can be achieved by ness) may be required. If and when evidence

giving increased consideranon to rhe possi­ accrues for rhe existence of an underlying

bility of nonlinear growrh in skills, to rhe "root" cause of reading abilirr differences,

ascendancy hypothesis (srronger derecribili­ srrengthening that factor would clearly be

ry of individual differences during expecred an important facet of any early intervention

growrh spurts), and to the occurrence of "il­ program.

lusory recoverv,"

Wnh regaid ro imervention, che data also

provide sorne guidance as ro whar develop­

ing skills should be fostered in ar-nsk

youngsrers. Firsr, although eguacing corre­ Supporr for the preparation of this rev1ew was pro­

[ation wirh causaliry is a false inference, rhe vided bv Grant No. HD-01994 to Haskins Labora·

opposite-that a lack of correlation imphes torles. i wou!d ,1Jso Jikt to thank Susan Brady and

lcslic Rescorla for their helpful commenrs during

a lack of causal influence.-cis usuallv a rea­
the prepararion oí th1s chapter.
sonable conclusión. Hence, for rhe purpose

of preventing later reading problcms, there

is no reason to provide training in skills

rhar poorly predict furure reading achieve­

Anrhony, J. L., Lonigan, C. J., Dyer, S. J\·L, &
Second, among rbe stronger predictors,
Bloomfield, B. (1997, April). The dcvefopment of
only phonological awareness has ver been pbonofogical processing in preschool-aged chil·

demonstrared to play a causal role '¡n learn­ dren: Prelimhrary ev1dence (rom confimratory

ing to read. A successful inrcrvention pro­ factor a11alys1s. Paper presenred at the meeting of

the Sociery for Research in Child Developmem,

gram would rhus certainly include training
Washington, DC.
in this skill. And, because connecring
Aram, D. !'-·1., & Hall, N. E. (1989). Longitudinal
phonological awareness with letter knowl­
follow-up of children with preschool communica­
e��e has been shown to enhance rhe acqui­
tion disorders: Trearment implications. School
smon of the alphabetic principle, this too Psychology Re111ew. 1 B, 487-501.




Early Phonological Development and

the Acquisition of Literacy

� •
I · •


' '



� lighted by different languages may vary. I

The links between the child's development

of spoken language and the child's subse­ argue that we need to understand more

quent development of literacy are becoming about the relative weight rhat needs to be

increasingly well understood. In particular, given to the differenr phonological unirs of

� the child's phonological development-the syllable, rhyme, and phcnerne and their

progression in representing in the brain the connecrions with sequences of letters in dif­

speech units that make up different words­ ferent orthographies. For example, analo­

'llíl is now recognized to play a causal role in gies based on rhymes may be particularly

the acquisition of literacy. In this chapter, 1 important for reading acquisition in Eng­

describe the development of children's abili­ lish. Further; reading insrrucuon can make

ries to recognize and categoríze different important contributions to children's

e@ phonological units in spoken words,

ing thís to the development of their spoken

relat­ phonological

the phonemic

leve!. Using

rhe theoretical

':':� understanding of development proposed, 1

vocabularies. These recognition and carego­

SÍ!í) rization skills are thought to be acquired in­ consider possible contributions of varied

formally, as growing vocabulary creates an facrors to children's phonological develop­

implicir need for making comparisons be­ ment including their home environmencs

tween similar-sounding words ("lexical and methods of classroom reading instruc­

restrucmring theory"). This rheoretical ap­ non.

proach can help us to understand the devel­
opmental importance of language games

and nursery rhymes in helping rhe child to Phonological Skills and Learning
1 $

1 specify key aspects of the sound patterns of to Read: Research Background

1 -ff
English more explicitly.

Moving to rhe early phase of reading, I Phono!ogical awareness is measured by

rhen review sorne of the evidence thar the tasks that require a child to reflecr on or to

child's awareness of the phonology of his or manipulare the componcnt sounds of spo­

her language is one of the most importan! ken words. A wide vanety of such tasks has

predictors of thar child's progress in learn­ bcen designed, including asking children to
ing to read and to spell, noting that cross­ monitor and correct speech errors (e.g.,

linguistic research is increasingly showing "sie'' to "pie"), to select the "odd word

that the phonological units that are high- out" in terms of sound (e.g., which word




quenr consonants [the coda], e.g., str-eet,

does not rhyme from "fit, par, cat "], to
spr-ing) to phonological awareness of
make a ¡udgment about similarity of sound
"small" segmenrs or units (phonerries, a
(e.g., do these two words share a syllablc:
phoneme is the smallest unir of sound that
"repeat-compete"?), to segment words by
changes the meaning of a word, c.g., "cot''
rapping with a stick (e.g., tap out the com­
and "car" differ in their medial phoneme;
ponent sounds in "book" = three taps), and
for reviews, see Goswami & Bryant, 1990;
to blend sounds inro words {e.g., "d-ish,"

or "d-i-sh'' to make "dish"; see, e.g., Goswami, in prcss aj. Furrher, rhe develop­

Bradley & Bryant, 1983; Chaney, 1992; mental process of making phonological

Liberman, Shankwei!er, Fischer, & Carrcr, knowledge expbcit seems to be much easier

1974; Mersala, 1999, Treiman & Zukows­ for svllables, onsets, and rimes than it is far

ki, 1991). Performance in a!l rhese phono­ phonemes. Phonemic awareness does not

seem to develop auromatically with age

!ogical av.rareneSs tasks J���- many others)

has bcc:n rclatcd to literacy. However, it is

(e.g., adult illiterares generallv lack phone­

important to point out rhar the cognitive mic awareness; e.g., Morais, Cary, Alegria,

demands made by these different tasks vary, & Bertelson, 1979). Instead, ir appear s to

so that performance will reflect not just largely depcnd on direct instruction in read­

phonological awareness per se but also ex­ ing and spelliug (e.g., Liberman et al.,

traneous task demands (e.g., McBride­ 1974) or on the receipr of training ar the

Chang, 1995; Yopp, 1 9 8 8 ) . One recent way phonemic leve! (e.g., Byrne & Fielding­

of conceptualizing rask demands in phono­ Barnsley, 1995; Content, Kolinsky, Morais,

logical awareness, derived from work on & Bertelson, 1986). Although sorne prelir­

linguisric development, is to distinguish erate children can demonstrate sorne

"epilinguistic" processing from "metalin­ phonemic awai eness in sorne phonemic

guistic" processing (see Gombert, 1992). awareness tasks (e.g., Stuarr & Coltheart,

Gombert argues rhat one approach is to 1988; Thomas & Senechal, 1998), in gener­

consider whether a given phonological al phonemic awareness develops via direct

awareness rask requires the recognition of instruction in an alphabetic orthography.

shared phonological segments (such tasks Phonemic development can be rapid once

can be performed using "epilinguistic" pro­ this instruction commences, particularly in

cessing, which is an automatic part of transparent orthographies such as German

speech processing and does not normally {e.g., Wimmer, 1990).

require conscious awareness) or the identifi­ As this chapter is mainly concerned wirh

carien and production of shared phonolog­ ear!y phonological development, it focuses

ical segments (such tasks require metalin­ on the processes underlying the develop­

guistic processing, meaning that the child ment of segmented representations of words

muse make implicit or "epilinguistic" as part of the development of speech pro­

knowledge explicir in arder to perform rhe cessinf:. In general, this does not include tbe

task}. Either or both representational development of phonemic awareness. Early

processes mighr enrail rhe developmenr of phono!ogical development centers on the

an abstraer store of information about phonological units of syl!able, onset, and

phonological segments (e.g., Butterworth, rime, and these are the phonological units

1992), which mighr form rhc basis of re­ highlighted in early linguistic romines such

sponding in phonological awareness and as nursery rhymes. Interestingly, the phono­

orher phonological tasks based on nonsense logical correspondences established early in

word stimuli (see Coswarni & East, 2000, development seem to be less vulnerable to

Íor more discussion). neurolog1cal accident than those established

Studies suggest that there is a develop­ later. For example, onser�rime correspon­

mental progression from phonological dences are still available to adult acquired

awareness of "large" segments or units of dyslexics and alexics even when phonemic

phonology (syllables, onsets, and rimes; the correspondences are not (e.g., Patterson &

onset in a spoken syllable refers to rhe con­ Marce!, 1992; Shallice, Warrington & Mc­

sonant phonemes before the vowel, and the Carthy, 1983), and syllab1c correspondences

rime is the vowel pbonemes and any subse- may still be available to adult phono!ogicai
� Early Plwnological Development

dyslexics even when onser, rime, and Dollaghan, 199 4 ). Although phonological

phoneme correspondences are not (Lesch & output typical!y remains imprecise initially
Martin, 1998). (sometimes only a regular caretaker can de­

code the child's imended meaning), children

at this point in development are rapidly ac­

The Development of Phonological quiring more and more words which, of

� Awareness: The Lexical course, sound more and more similar ro

Restructuring Hypothesis each other. There is considerable develop­

mental pressure to represenr these words in

� Given its imporrance for literacy, surprising­ the brain in a way that will distinguish them

ly litde work has been done en the linguistic from ocher words and allow the child to rec­

and lexical factors that might determine the ognize them accurately and quickly during

� development of phonological awareness in speech comprehension. For example, a 2-

all children. In thinking about what rhese year-old probably knows the words "cot,"
· �
-facrors might be, 1 have found the recent "cat" and "cut," "hor," "not"_ and "lot"

� and "cough." Ali these words differ from

proposal that phonological awareness may

- emerge as a result of "lexical restructuring" "cor" by a single phonemc. To distinguish

processes that are an imnnsic part of lan­ berween rhese similar-sounding words borh

guage acquisirion useful ("lexical restructur­ quickly and accurately, child linguists argue

t:;@ ing theory"; Metsala, 1999; Mersala & that children must begm to represent rhe se­

Walley, 1998). Lexical restructuring theory quences of sounds thac constiture each

is based on the premise that in the normal known word in their brains. They musr rep­

� course of development, children's phonolog­ resent the "segmenta! phonology" of the

ical representations become increasingly words they know.

segmenta! and distincdy specified in rerms Metsa!a and Walley (1998) have suggest­

of phonetic features with age (e.g., Fowler, ed thar segmental phonology is represenred

1991; Metsala, 1999; Walley, 1993). at an increasingly fine-grained leve! as de­

The basic ideas behind this theory can be velopment proceeds. They argue that chi'­
explained by rhinking about early language dren's first words represent fairly global

acquisition. When children first begin to ac­ phonological characteristics. Early in lan­

quíre spoken language, in infancy, rheir spo­ guage development, the child needs to dis­
ken vocabularies ccnsist of rathcr few criminare relatively few unique words, and

� words. Each word, however, is represented so quite holistic representations of phono­

in terms of certain semantic features ("Dad­ logical forms will suffice (e.g., Ferguson,
dy" may refer to a person of a certain sex 1986; Juscyk, 1993). However, as more and

� and size) and also m terms of certain phono­ more words are acquired, children are

logical features (rhe child can recognize rhat thought to begin to represent smaller seg­

"Daddy" is a diffcrent word from "dog­ ments in words. From the phonological

� gy"). At this developmental time point, the awareness data discussed earlier, it seems

motor program for producing the word likely that children will first represent the

"Daddy" is probably quite sketchy, and the number of syllablcs in a word and the "on­
� sets" and "rimes" in each syllable. This
child may say "Dada" or "Da" when in­

tending ro name "Daddy." Small vocabu­ process may begín as early as age 1 or 2

lary size at this time may also lead roddlers (e.g., Swingley, Pinto & Femald, 1999).

to "overextend" rhe words that they do The syllable is thought to be the primary

know, and rhe child may use his or her word linguistic processing unir for English, as it is

for "Daddv" to refer to such visirors as the distinguished by a nurnber of audirory cues

milkman and the postman, and to uncles including rhythm and stress. Within the syl­

and other adult males as well. lab!e, the most prominent phonological seg­

Most children go through a dramatic ments are the onset and the rime. Linguisti­

burst in naming activiry between rhe ages of cally, the rime is a salient phonological umt

1 and 2 years. Spoken vocabulary suddenly and seems to have an organizing function

grows exponentially (by the age of 6, the av­ far English phonology. Many of the lan­

erage child comprehends 14,000 words; see guage games, linguistic routines, and nurs-


ing to this "emergent" view of segmenta!

ery rbymes of early childhood emphasize

segmenta! phonology by increasmg rhe representation, the phoneme is not an inte­

gral aspect of speech representarion and

salience of syllables, onsets, and rimes. Far

example, popular nursery rhymes have processing from infancy onwards {e.g.,

_ -- strong rhythms that emphasize syllabifica­ Eimas, Siqueland, Jusczyk, & Vigonto,

tion (think of Humpty Dumpry), and many 1971) but, rather; emerges as a representa­

contrast rhyming words in ways that distin­ tional unir via spoken language experíence.

guish the enser from rhe rime (e.g., "Twin­ However, an importanr aspecr of early lan­

kle Twinkle Little Star" rhymes "star" with guage experience that is missing from the

"are," and "Incv \v'incy Spider" rhymes current version of lexical resrructuring rheo­

"spout" with "out"). ry is rhe nature of rhe inrerirem phono!ogi-·

Mersala and Walley (1998) argue that the cal similarity relations that characterize dif­

process of re-represenung rhe segmenta! Icrenr languages. A number of sources of

phonology of individual words is relatively evidence suggest that, far Engíish,-·a·salienr

word-specific. Ir will depend on rhe child's phanological similamy relation is that of

overall vocabulary size and also en the rate the rime.

of expausion of rhar vocabulary. Children

r ,
with large vocabulanes who are rapidly ac­
Phonological Neighborhoods iti E11glish nnd
quiring lors of new words would be expect­
tlie Importnnce o
f Rimes
ed to have lexicons rhat are experiencing

grearer pressure for restrucruring, and con­ As lexical restructuring theory proposes

sequenrly to have represenred, rhe.syllables, that implicit comparisons between similar­

ousers, and rimes in many of the words in sounding words constitute the basis for the

. , rheir vocabularies. Lexical resrructuring emergence of phonological awareness, ir

also depends on word frequency or familiar­ seems logical that the namre af the phono·


iry. Words that are encountered many rimes logical neighbors in the child's kxican in

or rhat were acquired early are more likely different languages will influence this devel­
, 1

to have been restructured, beca use rhe child opmental process. The tradirional linguisric

needs ro eccess rhese words rapidly and ac­ similarity metric for defining a phonological

curarely on so many occasions. Finally, neighborhood considers neighbars to be

lcxical resrructuring depends on rhe num­ words that differ by rhe addirion, delerion

ber of similar-sounding words in the and substirution of a single phoneme. Ac­

lexicon {"neighborhood densiry"). Words in cording to chis metric, rime neighbors such

"dense" neighborhoods (words such as as "pot," onser-vowel or "lead" neighbors

"cor;' wirb manv similar-sounding neigh­ such as "cough," and "consonant" neigh­

bors) should experience most pressure for bors such as "kit," are ali considered to be

rescructuring, as they musr be distinguished equal ne1ghbors of a targer word such as

from a large number of orher extremely "cot." However, given the psychological

similar words. \Vords in "sparse" neighbor­ salience of rhe rime ro young children, it

hoads, which musr only be distinguished seems possible thar many phonological

fram a small number af other extremely neighbors in English mighr be rime neigh­

similar words, should experience less pres­ bors. Far example, a word such as "cor"

sure for restructuring. Metsala and Walley (dense neighborhood) has been estimated to

propase rhat the degree to which segmenral have 49 phono!ogical neighbors (Luce &

represenration has taken place wi!I deter­ Pisoni, 1 99 8 ) , 24 of which are rime neigh·

mine how easily rhe child will become bors (49%). A word such as "crib" (sparse

phonologically aware and will learn to read neighborhood) has been estimated ro have

and write. 15 phonological neighbors, 7 of which are

According to lexica! restrucruring theory, rime neighbors {47%). If ir can be demon·

therefore, segmemal represenrations emerge strated rhat there is a prevalence of rime

primarily as the result of spoken vocabulary neighbars in the English phonological lexi­

growth and assocíated changes in rhe famil­ can, rhis might help to explain rhe salience

iariry of individual Jexical irems and in­ and utility of onset-rime representations in

reritem phonological similarity relations English.

("phonological neighborhoods"). Accord- To examine rhis possibility, we recently

Enrly Phono!ogical Development 115

·, TABLE 9.1. Phonological Neighborhoods in Eaglish Monosyllabic Words (Neve Metric)

Ali monosyllabic words High N (Neve� 32) Low N (1 :5 Neve es 13)

(n = 3,072) (n = 570) (11 = 619)


' 22.5
M 12.2 3.8 6.5 38.1 22.1 7.2 8.7 9.4 3.9 1.5 4.0

SD 10.1 7.8 3.2 4.4 5.3 6.5 3.0 4.6 2.9 2.9 1.8 2.9

% 100 54 17 29 100 58 19 23 100 41 16 43


Note. Neve represents all phonological neighbors that diffcr from a targct word by onc onset, uowe{, or coda

substitution, dclction, ar addition. RN, rime neighbor ; CN, consonant phoneme nclghbor; OVN, onset-vowd


. - . -------- --

analyzed the corpus of single-syllable words bors predominare in English phonological

tn the Luce and Pisoni-(1998) darabase of neighborhoods, particuJarly in dense...neig,�----­

spoken-English forms in rerms of rime borhoods. Thus words in dense neighbor-
neighbors (RN), onser-vowel neighbors hoods might experience more pressure far

(OVN), and consonant neighbors (CN) in early lexical resrructuring to the rime leve!

dense versus sparse neighborhoods, respec­ than words in sparse neighborhoods.

tively. We used two rneasures of pbonologi­ Because rhe similarity indices shown in

cal neighborhood; the tradicional speech­ Tables 9.1 and 9.2 were derived from an

processing definition (addition, deletion, ar adulr lexical database, ir is not clear how

subsriturion of one phoneme, called here N applicable these indices are to young ehil­

:t. 1), and a definition based on a linguistic dren. Children's lexical neighborhoods are

analysis acccrding to which monosyllables smaller than those of adults and are con­

can be coded in rerms of the phonological stantly being updated, meaning thar neigh­

units onset, nucleus, coda (see Treiman, borhood statistics are much more dynamie.

1988, far review). This seeond measure, From this perspective, estimares of neigh­

here Neve, was derived on the basis of rhe borhood similarity based on adult data can

phonological awareness Iiterature, which only approximare the developrnental picrure

has demonstrated the psychological salience {e.g., Charles-Luce & Luce, 1990, 1995;

of onsets and rimes for young children. The Dollaghan, 1994; Legan, 1992). Neverrhe­

chief difference psychologically would be less, there is no reason to suppose that rime

that whereas words such as "spor" and neighbors are under-represented in the

"tror" would count as rime neighbors of child's similarity neighborhoods. Indeed,

"cor" in the Neve darabase, they wou!d not one developmenral function of language

count as rime neighbors of cot in the N :t. 1 play such as nursery rhymes may be to high­

darabase. Tables 9.1 and 9.2 show our light che salience of rime neighbors in Eng­

analyses (De Cara & Goswami, 1999). lish, and nursery rhymes certainly do not re­

lt is clear from the tables that rime neigh- stricf their rhyming panerns to N = 1

TABLE 9.2. Phonological Neighborhoods in English Monosyllabic Words (N :t: 1 Metric)

AII monosyllabic words High N (Neve e!: 32) Low N (1 s Neve :S 13)

(n = 3,072) {n = 570) (n = 619)


M 13.4 5.7 3.8 3.9 24.9 11.5 7.2 6.2 5.0 1.7 1.5 1.8

SD 8.7 4.6 3.2 3.1 7.6 4.7 3.0 4.6 3.2 1.7 1.8 2.0

% 100 43 28 29 100 46 29 25 100 34 30 36

Note. N :; 1 represents al! phonologica! neighbors that differ from a targer word by one pbor.eme subsrirution,

deletion, ar addaicn. RN, rime ncighbor; CN, consonant phoncmc ncighbor; OVN, onser-vcwel nc,ghbor.


neighbors (e.g., Hickory Dickory Dock ness of one rime compared to another,

rhymes dock wirh clock, and Jack and Jill However; if such an effect could be demon­

rhymes down. with c.rown; see also Goswa­ srrared, it would help us to understand the

mi, 1995). basis of phonological awareness. In cssence,

It is nota priori clear wherher more sirni­ phonological awareness must be a cense­

[arities or differences would be expected be­ quence of how the brain processes language.

tween the broad characteristics of rhe lf implicrc comparisons between similar­

phonological neighborhoods of adults and sounding words are an important part of

children. We therefore also calculated rhe the emergence of phonological awareness,

number of rime, onset-vowel and consonant as suggested by lexical restructuring theory,

neighbors for rwo differcnr estimares of ear­ rhen effects of neighborhood density should

ly-scquired words, those given by Giihooly emerge in phonological awareness tasks,

and Logie (1980) and rhose given by Morri­ even when the chi!cl is recognizing a salienr

son, Chappell, and Ellis (19--9-7).(see..Oe Cara - phonolog1cahrnit in very familiar words.

& Goswami, 1999). Table 9.3 shows rhese In recent work (De Cara & Goswami,

results far monosyliables onlv, Although 1999), we used rwo different phonological

rhese analyses did not attempt to provide es· awareness rasks to test rhis hypothcsis. One

tunares of absolure lexicón size, they illus­ was the oddiry rask pioneered by Brad!ey

trare that rime neighbors are not likely to be and Bryant (1983), in which children muse

underrepresenrcd in children's phonological select the "odd word out" from a triple of

neighborhoods. words, one of which has a different rime

{e.g., pir, hit, andgor). In our experiments,

4-, 5-, and é-year-old children were asked to

Plwnological Neighborhoods and
make judgments about triples of words
Phonological Awareness
from dense neighborhoods, such as "hor,

The nexr step in tesring rhe proposal rhar lor, wair," and triples of words from sparse

the basis for the emergence of phono!ogical neighborhoods, snch as- "mud, thud, good."

j awareness is the child's implicit campar· The second task was the same-different

isons berween similar-sounding words is to judgment task developed by Treiman and

see whether there is any evidence rhat chil­ Zukowski ( 1 991 ) , in which children musr

dren are more accurate at processing rimes decide whether or nor rwo spoken words

in dense phonological neighborhoods. If the share a rarger sound. In our experimenrs,

statistical patterns demonstrated previously children were asked to make judgmenrs

actually affect the developmenr. of phono-­ abour pairs of words from dense neighbor­
logical awareness, then children should find hoods, such as "lick, sick" and pairs of

ir easier to decide that "cot" and "pot" words from sparse neighborhoods, such as
rhynie than to decide that "thud" and "soot, loor." Both rasks were chosen be­

"m ud " rhyme. Given rhat rhese are ali high­ ca use rhey should be measures of "epilin­

ly familiar and early-acquired words,-it may guistic" processing. By using epilinguisric

seern counrerinruitive to propase rhat chil­ tasks, we hopedro tap the leve! of phono­

dren will show better phonological aware- !ogical processing rhat míghr be expected ro

result primarily from spoken vocabulary

growth and associared changes in rhe famil­

iariry of individual lexical items and in­

TABLE 9.3. Percentage of Rime Neighbors
teritem phonological similariry relations.
among English Monosyllables as a Function of
We found significant effecrs of neighbor­
Age oí Acquisition, Based on Published Norrm
hood densiry ar every age thar we srudied

Age of % rime No. of (De Cara & Goswami, 1999). Children

Database acquisition neighbors words were significantly more accurare ar making

judgments abour rhyme far words from

Gilhooly & 3 years 51.6 183

Logie (1980) dense neighborhoods than far words from

4 years 54.1 376

5 :,,ears 482 sparse neighborhoods. Overall, rherefore,


neighborhood densiry effects do emerge in

Mordson et al. 3 years 43.3 41
simple phonological awareness rasks. Our
(1997) 84
5 years 57.3
findings are consisrenr wirh recent data re-

- ­
Early Phonological Development

ported by Metsala (1999) using a blending process. The ways in which this rnight oper­

rask. In her task, the child had to choose, are in different languages an1 for different

� far example, rhe picrure of a "bush'' wheñ phonologicai units (e.g., onset, rime, and

rhe experimenter said lb/-/uf-/shl. She found phoneme) create important questions Ior fu­

---- rhat 3- and 4-year-old childrerÍ performed ture research. For example, as discussed ear­
significantly better in this simple phoneme lier, the representation of phoneme-level in­

blending task when the carget words were formation mighr be expected to be largely

from dense neighborhoods rarher than from dependenr on the acquisition of literacy, be­

sparse neighborhoods, This version of rhe cause the feedback provided by graphemic

1 ,.

blending task may also be an "epilinguistic" information will help che child to represent

task, as rhe children basically had to recog­ segmental information at the phonemic lev­


nize words spoken very slowly by che exper­ e! (see Morais, Alegria, & Content, 1987;

1 -
imentec The )'oung age-of the particrpacing Goswami, in press a; Goswami & Bryanc,

, o,¡¡¡¡; children makes Metsala's demonstration of 1990, for reviews]. The effects of literacy on

,,. _____ ---_-heighb�xhoo_4-density-effects _p2rticularly

lexical restructuring would also be expecred

to vary depending on che transparency of

rhe language being acquired (see Goswami,

l "W

2000, for discussion). For example, some

Phonological Neighborhoods and

Reading Development

Once reading level was taken into account


use only one spelling

representa given rime (e.g., Greek ar.d Ger­

whereas others use a

pattern to

variery of

in our experiments, it was dear chat che ef­

fecrs of neighborhood density on rime pro­

cessing were much stronger in the nonread­

spelling patterns (e.g., English and French).

We know that this variability

guages affects chiídren's use of rime corre­

across lan­

ers. Tlus is not surprising, because learning spondences in reading acquisirion (e.g.,

,,. ro read and spell is known to affect phono­




this reciprocal
most research




& De


However, we do not yet know how



ship at the phonemic level (Goswami & chis variabiliry represents or interacts wirh
1 •

Bryant, 1990, for review), effects at the rime rhe phonological characteristics of ditferent

leve! would also be expected ( Goswami & languages.

East, 2000). For example, sorne of the rimes






vary The Developmental Pathway

markedly in their orthographic transcrip­ to Reading

tion. The rime !Ir! is one of the most fre­

quent rimes in English monosyllabic words, So far, we have seen chat there is sorne evi­

but can be written as in "year," "here," dence in support of the propasa! that one

� "cheer" and "tier." As soon as children be­ importanr basis for rhe emergence of

gin leaming to read and to spell, rheir phonological awareness is the child's im­

phonological categories are likely to be af­ plicit comparisons between similar-sound­

fected by rheir orthographic knowledge. ing words, which are a natural pare of lan­

Orher very dense neighborhoods showing guage processing. Metsala and Walley

this inconsistency of rime spelling include (1998) also proposed that the degree to

the neighborhoods for /el/ (sail, whale, which segmenta! representation had raken

'i';ÍI gaol), /Er/ (share, hair, where, their; swear) place would determine how easily che child

and /orl (shore, for, roar, war). would learn to read and write. In a trivial
The possibility that che experience of sense we already know chis to be true, be­
learning to read and spell an alphabetic or­ cause there is an exrensive literature docu­

thography will have an important role to menring connections between children's


play in the lexical restructuring process is phonological awareness and their reading

not specifically discussed by Metsala and and spelling development. We do not yet

� Walley (1998). However, ir is plausible to know whether specific predictions made by

propose that the act of becoming lirerare the !exical restrncturing hypothesis would

will m itself affect the lexical restructuring be supported for literacy acquisition, how-


! ..




l .,
cver, According ro the hyporhesis, the fac­ h ó o d " effecrs in borh list-reading and story­
· 1,:
,. tors that govern the degree of lexical re­ reading tasks. The less skilled readers in

¡; structuring rhar has occurred for certain rheir sample were also sensitive to rime

words should also govern early literacy ac­ neighborhood size when followed up 1 year


cutstnon. Far examp!e, early-acquired la ter.

words should be easier ro learn toread and These data are at leasr consistenr with the
,. to spell, and words in dense phonological lexical resrrucruring hypotbesis in regard to
n neighborhoods should be easier to ieam to rime processing. What is required now is a

read and to spell. This is because these are systematic study of both phonological and

t, the words rhat are more like!y to have seg­ orthographic neighborhood density in arder
menred representations. In theory, ir should to disentangle phonological and ortho­


be easier for children ro connecr rhcse graphic rime cffects in re:admg acquisition .

words to lerters, because sorne of the sound

,, segments thar the letrers represenr have al­

Rllyme tmd Reading in English:
ready been drstínguisbed. --
Gen.eral Co1111ectio1IS

Therc is, however, a great <leal of general ev­

Rhyme ond Reading in English:
idence that earlr awareness of rhyme facili·
Specific Ccnnectíons
tates literacy acquisition. Almost rwo

As argued previously, rbe phonological seg­ decades ago, Bradley and Bryant ( 1978 ,
mems that should a priori be mosr affecred 1 983) demonstrated the importance of

by spoken vocabulary growrh and associat­ rhyme awareness for reading development

ed changes in the familiarity of individual in English in a series of srudies: using the

· lexical irems and interitem phonological oddiry rask describe.d earlier. Bradley and

similaricy relarions should be the syllable, Bryant found rhat rhyme awareness mea­

the onser, and rhe rime. Although we do sure.d in preschoolers was a significant pre­

nor yet know wherher, for exarnple, words dictor of later progress in readlng and

in dense phonological neighborhoods are spelling, e.ven when other factors such as IQ

easier to learn to read and ro spell, it has and memory were conrrolled in mulriple­

been shown rhar beginning readers are regression equations. They also reponed

more likely ro read words with large ortho­ that backward readers had poorcr rhyming

graphic "rime neighborhoods" correctly skills than <lid younger children reading at

than words with moderare or small orrho­ the same leve] as rhem. MacLean, Bryant

graphic rime neighborhoods (Leslie & Cal­ and Bradley ( 1 9 8 7 ) found a significant con­

hoon, 1995). Orthographic neighborhood nection bctween rhyming skills at ag:e 3 and

is not direcdy comparable to phonological single word rcading at 4 and 6

neighborhood because of rhe variabilirv in monrhs. Following up MacLean et al.'s sam­

rime spellings nored earlier (e.g., "year," ple 2 years latcr, Bryant, MacLean, Bradley,

"here," "cheer," and "tier" would a!l be in and Crossland (1990) reportcd a significanr

che same phonological rime neighborhood relationship between nursery rhyme knowJ.

bur differenc onhographic rime neighbor­ edge ar age 3 and success in reading and

hoods). The orthographic rime neighbor­ spelling at ages 5 and 6, e.ven afrer factors

hood is a measure of how many cther such as social background and IQ were con­

words in rhe lexicon are spelled with the trolled.

same rime. Thus a word such as "ship" has More recently, Chane.y (1992) reported

a large orthographic rime neighborhood that 3-year-olds showed sorne success in

(dip, hip, chip, lip, nip, skip, rip, slip .. ere.) rhyming rasks, and she found relationships

as well as a large phonological rime nergh­ berv,,een this early rhyme awareness and lat­

borhood, whereas a word such as "seem" er phonological skiUs predictive of litcracy.

has a small orrhographic rime neighbor­ Chane:y's rhyme measure (rhyme produc­

hood (deem, teem), even though the phono­ tion) was rhe best correlare of the other met­

logical rime neighborhood is much larger alinguisric skills in her srudy. Burgess and

{13 rime neighbors, e.g .. cream, dream, Lonigan (199 8 ) found rhat "phonological

rhcme). Leslie and Calhoon (1995) found senmiviry" measure:d in a large sample of

significam orthographic "rime ncighbor- 1 1 5 4- and 5-year-old children {comprismg

Early Pllonological Deuelopment

onset and rime oddity task performance and work in more than ene way. For example

rasks of blending and segmenting com­ in Bryant et al.'s (1990) study, a path analy:
pound words inro words or syllables) pre­ sis showed a route from nursery rhymes to

� dicted performance in borh letter-name and rhyme awareness to reading and an inde­

letter-sound knowledge tasks 1 year Iarer, pendent route from nursery rhymes to

The latter were argued to be rudimemary phoneme awareness to reading. This is
1'$jj reading skills. Cronin and Carver (1998) shown in Figure 9.1. On the basis of this

used an onset oddiry task and a rhyme kind of evidence, we have previously argued

matching task to measure phonological sen­ (Goswami & Bryant, 1990) that rhyme
siriviry in a group of 57 5-year-olds, and awareness might comribute ro reading de­

found that phonological sensirivity signifi­ velopment in at leasr rwo ways. First, rhyme

cantly discrirninated the three different might contribute to reading because rhyme
� achievement levels used to group rhe chil­ _awareness is a predicror of which children

dren in terms of reading abiliry ar rhe end of will find ir easier to develop phoneme


firsc grade, even when vocabulary levels awareness. In terms of lexical restructuring

were contrclled. Baker; Fernandez-Fein, _ cheory, __children.czhcuhave already repre­

� Scher; and Williams (1998) showed rhat sented the onsets and rimes in single-syllable

kindergarten nursery rhyme· knowledge was words will go on to segment rhe onsct and

the strongest predictor of word attack and

word identification skills measured in grade

2, accounting for 36% and 48% of che vari­

the rime to represenr individual phonemes.

Second, rhyme might contribure ro reading

because in English rhymes are often repre­

anee, respectively. The second strongest pre­ senred by consistent spelling sequences (e.g.,
� dictor was lerter knowledge, which account­ light, fighr, and night; rail, nail, and mail).

ed for an additicnal 11 % and 18% of the Children's awareness of rhyme might thus

variance, respcctively. allow them to form implicit phonobgical

This selection of studies showing a con­

nection berween early rhyme awareness and

caregories of words that share

rimes. By associating their phonological cat­

onsecs or

the subsequent acquisition of literacy or lit­ egories with srrings of lerrers, children could
eracy-related skills demonstrares that the learn spelling sequences for onsets and

� developmental pathway to reading acquisi­ rimes, which are important spelling cate­

tion in English critically involves rhyme. gories in English {see later). Children might

However; the connection with rhyme might rhus be able tO use analogies berween words


il!!ll Reading





via analogy


FIGURE 9.1. Rhyme and reading.


sharing spelling patterns for rimes as one 91 %), the pronunciation of vowcls was very

mconsistent across different words (51 %).

mechanism of acquiring a reading vocabu­
An analysis of the spelling-sound consisten·

cy of larger spelling units in the words,

namely rhe onser-vowel (C1 V) and rime

Analogies in Reading and the Spelling
(VC ) unirs, showed a dear advantage for
Syste111 o
f English
rhe rime. Whereas only 52 % of CVC words

Research has shown that borh children and sharing a C1 V spelling had a consistent pro­

adults can use analogies to decode unfamil­ nunciation {e.g., bea in beak and bean), 77%

tar words (Glushko, 1979; Goswami, of CVC words sharing a VC2 spelling had a

1986). Alrhough-it,Vas-initially chcughr consisrenc pronunciation (e.g., eak in peak

rhat only older children could use analogies and weak).

sponraneously ln reading (after about 10 This sratistical analysis of che spelling sys­

years of age, see Marsh, DesDerg, & Coop­ rem of-English-cshows that rhe spelling­

er, 1977; Marsh, Friedman, \\7dch, & Des­ sound consistency of rhe wrirren language is

berg, 1981), it is now known that analogies greatest for initia l consonants (onsers), final

are used rnuch earlier. Even beginníng read­ consonanrs, and rimes. lt indicares rhat the

ers can make analogies between shared conrext of che final consonant ar canso·

spelling partems in words (see Goswami, nants can disambiguare che pronunciation

1999, far a recent overvíew). Younger read­ of rhe vowel (e.g., "a" makes a different

ers make fewer analogies than do older sound in cat, ball, car, day, saw, cake, and

readers. This was thought to be because care, bue these different phonemic corre­

rhey have smallcr reading vocabularies spondences are consisrenr within rhyming

(Goswami, 1986). Analogies are also used groups: car, mar, bat ; ball, fall, wall . . .

when children are reading stories (Goswa­ ; care, dare, stare ; and so on). These

mi, 1988). This suggested rhat analogy is a sratisrical relarionships may help us to un­

largely implicit process, driven by che derstand the developmental parhway be­

child's phonological skills and the ortho­ rween rhyme awareness and reading.

graphic-phonological relations operating in Treiman et al.'s (1995) analysis shows that

che onhography that they are learning ro many of the alremative pronunciations for

read. The facr that an.'.'1.k•gy can be an im­ vowel graphemes become highly predicrable

pli clt process does not mean rhar we do not if rhe rime is considered as a unit. A child

need ro teach children to use analogies. The with good onser-rime awareness is thus in a

use of an ana!ogy stratcp· shou[d develop betrer posirion to discover the stabiliry of

fasrer if ir is explicitly "raught ro." vowel phonemes withm rimes, suggesting

One reason why orthographic analogies anorher possible reason for the link berween

may be useful in reading English is suggested rhyme awareness and phoneme awareness

by a statistical anal) sis conducted by demonstrared in Bryant et al. 's ( 19 9 0 } srudy.

Treiman, Mullennix, Bijeljac-Babic, and Far exarnple, the vowel digrapb "ou" is al­

Richmond-We!ty (1995). They calculated ways used to represent one sound in the

how many times individual lerrers mapped to rimes shout and house. lt is used to repre­

rhe same sounds when tbey occurred in the sent a different sound in soup and group,

same posit1ons across different words far ali but this is predictable. The sound /u/ is

the monosyllabic words of English wirh a spelled differently in rimes such as tooth

consonanr-vowel-consonant (CVC) phono­ and spoon but is again predictable given the

logical strncture (e.g., "c" in cat, c11p, cone, rime. In rruly "alpbaberic" languages, read­

etc., "p" in cup, top, cheap, etc.). The CVC ing instruction based on teaching children a

words in this analysis included words spelled fixed sequence of grapheme-phoneme cor­

with vowel digraphs, such as "rain" and respondences is commonplace (e.g., Wim­

"beak," and words with "rnle of e" mer, 1993). However; far a language such as

spellmgs, such as "cake" and ·'lane." English, a joint focus on grapheme­

Treiman et al. {1 9 95) found chat whereas rhe phoneme correspondences and rimes may

pronunciation of initial and final consonants be more appropriare (Goswami & Easr,

was reasonably consistent (C

= 96%, C :::

� Early Plwnological Development 121

·� Supporting the Developmental these activities. Nursery rhymes and similar

=-� Pathway: Environment linguistic routines would be expected to fa­

� and Intervention cilitare and extend che implicit organization

of spoken words in terms of rime neighbor-

lf one important basis far the emergence of hoods, for example.
� phonological awareness is the implicit com- There is at leasr piecemeal evidence that is

parisons between similar-sounding words consisrent wirh these possibilities. Far ex-

rhat are a natural part of language process- ample, the study by Burgess and Lonigan
'11lP ing, rhen children whose environment en- (1998) nored earlier found that receptive

z;¡¡t courages chcm to make such implicit com- and expressive oral language skills mea-

parisons should be at an advanrage when it sured in their sample of 4- and 5-year-olds

: �

comes to learning toread and to spell. Simi- __ at time 1 predicted performance in the oddi­
I mi, larly, children who have experieñced inrer- "ty task 'measured 1 year iater (onset and

vention designed to teach them ro compare rime versions). This is consistent with the

similar-sounding words explicirly sheuki-be-------idea--th-at-there-should be a general relation­

ar an advantage when it comesfo Iéáfiiirig --ship-6etween vocabulary sblls and the de-
1 �

to read and to spell. Ar present, there is velopment of phonological awareness. In

racher lirtle evidence available wirh which to facr, a recent Finnish study found thar there

"'® examine these hypotheses. Nevertheless, the was a connection between lexical develop-

studies that have been done suggest thar di- ment at age 1 (measured by the number of
rect instructional influences can have an mappings of meanings to speech units thac

important effect on the development of each child had at 1 year) and phonological

phonological awareness. For enhanced awareness at age 4 (measured by the oddiry

phonological awareness to, in turn, affect task, see Silven, Niemi, & Voeten, 1998).

the acquisition of literacy, further direcr in- Mersala (1999) reported that 4- to 5-year-

struction in how phonological caregories olds performed an onset-rime blending task

are reflected in rhe orthography appears to significantly more accurately with early-

be necessary, at leasc far children at risk of acquired words than witb larer-acquired

underachievement in reading. For these chil- words. Alrhough not directly relevant to the
' �

dren, direct insrruction in sound-letter cor- hypothesis that a richer language environ-
I �

respondences seems to be very important. ment will promore phonological awareness,

1 ;,

this finding <loes suggest that early vocabu­

lary acquisition and earlv phonological

Environment skills are directly connected. Avons, Wragg,

At present, we can only speculace how rhe Cupples, and Lovegrove ( 1 9 9 8 ) have shown

1"ll, child's environmenr might encourage the that rhyme detection measured at 4 years 11

months is also a significant predictor of vo­

implicit comparisons berween similar­

sounding words that are a natural part of cabulary developmenr (measured at age 6).

� language processing and thereby stimulare This could reflect the fact rhat children who

the developmental pathway to phonological have rcstructured more words to rhe on­
awareness. However, it seems likely that set-rime level at time 1 (consequently per­

children who experience a rich lmguistic en­ forming better in a rhyme-detection task)

vironment in early life will acquire a larger are those same children who ate activelv ac­

vocabulary a t a faster rate rhan do children quiring more words, and who thus have
� larger vocabularies at time 2.
who experience a poorer linguisric environ­

ment. Vocabulary size and rate of vocabu­ It has also been shown that children from
lary acquisition are both hypothesized to be lower socioeconomic status homes tend to

important far lexical restructuring to occur. perform less well on measures of phonolog­

Similarly, it seems likely that children whose ical sensitiviry than children from higher

caretakers promote linguistic activities such SES homes. The reasons far this are not

as language games and nursery rhymes will well understood. Far example, Dickinson

spend more time impiicidy comparing and and Snow {1987) measured phonological

contrasting the sounds of words than do sensiuvuy m U.5. kindergarten children

children whose caretakers do not promote who were ali attending high-quality day-

care programs, and found that those from "hat" cou1d be changed into a word such as

high-SES backgrounds performed at a sig­ "rat" by discarding the onser and retaining

nificanrly higher leve! than rhose from low­ che nme. The orher half of che experimental

SES backgrounds. Raz and Bryant (1990) grnup conrinued to receive phonological

gav,: rwo phonological awareness tasks to training onlv, At the end of the second year

high- and low-SES English children (initlal of the study, the children in the experimen­

phoneme identification and rime oddiry), tal group who had had plastic lerrers train­

and found that those from lower-SES back­ ing were 8 months further on in readmg

grounds had lower levels of phonological than the chiidien in the semcntic control

awareness at school cntry. These children group and a year further on in spelling.

were not significantly worse than rheir Compared to children who had spenr the in­

--high-SES counterparts at rhis stage, but af­ tervening period in an additional unseen
ter a year in school the gap had widened control group, they were an astonishing 2

dramatically, · and the low-SES children years further on m spelling, and 12 monrhs

______ --sh·o,;;1ecf-a .significanr deficir in phonological in reading. The guins made by the children

awareness. Bowey (1995) has reported sim­ who had conrinued to receive phonological

ilar SES findings in a sample of Australian traming only were not significant but still

children. She compared high- and low-SES notable. This study suggests that there is a

children in early word readmg achievemenr, clear ccnnection between training children

and found significant differences by SES how the alphabet is used to represent

srarus. She also reported rhar these differ­ sounds and reading and spelling develop­

ences were mediated by preexisting differ­ menr.

ences in phonological awareness and not by Similar results were found in a large study

underlying differences in general cognitive of 235 Danish preschool children conducted

abiliry. by Lundberg, Frost, and Perersen (1988).

They gave the children 8 months of daily

training in meralinguisric games and exer­

cises such as clapping out rhe syllables in

A number of srudies have used drrect inrer­ words and attending to the first sounds in

vcnrion to improve children's phonological the childrens' names. The aim of the pro­

awareness and measured consequent effects gram was "to guide rhe children to discover

on lireracy, For example, as part of the lon­ and attend to the phonological structure of

gitudinal study discussed earlier; Bradley language" {p. 268). The effectiveness of the

and Bryant (1983) took rhe 60 children in program in attaming this aim was measured

rheir cohorr of 400 who had performed by comparmg the children's performance in

most poorly in rhe oddity rask ar 4 and 5 various metalinguistic tasks after training to

years of age and gave sorne of rhem 2 years that of 155 children in an unseen control

of rraining in grouping words on the basis group. The trained ch1]dren were found to

of sounds. Training was based on a picture­ be significantly ahead of the control chil­

sorting task in which the children were dren in a variety of metalinguistic sk1lls in­

taught to group words by onset, rime and ciuding rhyming, syllable manipulation, and

vowel and coda phonemes (e.g., placing pie­ phoneme segmentation. The long-term ef­

tures of a hat, a rat, a mat, and a bat togerh­ fect of the training on the children's reading

er for grouping by rime). A control group and spelling progress in grades 1 and 2 was

learned to sort the same picrures by seman­ also assessed. The impact of the training

tic category (e.g., placing pictures of a rat, a was fow1d to be significant at both grades

pig, and a cow togerher for "farmyard ani­ for both reading and spelling, although ef­
mals"). fects were stronger for spelling.

Half of the experimental group then spent A recent German study of the effects of

the second year of che srudy learning how providing training in phonolog1cal aware­

the shared phonological segments in words ness in kindergarten found a similar pattern

such as "har," "rar," and "mar" were re­ of results to that reported by Lundberg et
flected in shared spelling. The children were al. (1988). Schneider, Kuespert, Roth, Vise,

given plastic letters for chis task, and were and Marx (1997) developed a 6-month

taught, for example, that a word such as metalinguistic training program covenng

L L,, -
Early Phonotogsoú Deueíopment

syllables, rhymes, and phonemes and gave bases for the emergence of phonologica!

it to a sample of 130 kindergarten children awareness. lt was argued that rhe nature of

in Germany. Reading and spelling progress phonological neighbors in differenr !an­

were then monitored in grades 1 and 2. guages wdl influence this deve!opmcntal

Schneider eral. (1997) found significant ef­ process, and it was then shown rhat phono­

fects of rhe metalinguistic training program logical neighborhood characteristics in Eng­

� on metalinguistic skills in comparison to an lish support the emergence of rhe linguistic

unseen control group, as would be expecred units of the onset and the rime. As syllsbles,

from Lnndberg et aL's (1983) results. They onsers. and rimes are also emphasized in

� also found significant long-term effecrs of early linguistic routines such as nursery

metalinguistic training on reading and rhymes, ir was suggested that informa! envi­

spelling progress, with stronger effects for ronmental experiences can promote rhe or­

� spelling. Recently, the same research group ganization of the mental lexicon around rhe

a¡¡¡ . has reporred signjficanr effects of the same syllable and rhyme. Diiect training m

training program on the reading and phonological caregcries can also promore

spelling progress of German kindergarten such an organization. lt was argued rhar the

� children assessed as being at risk for dyslex­ acquisition of lireracy will influence the fur­

ia (Schneider, Rorh, & Ennemoser, Lil ther development of phonological cate·

press}. The at-risk study showed that grear­ gories, particularly ar the phonemic level,
n,¡; and mighr possibly lead to the reorganiza­
est progress in reading and spelling was

made when rhe metalinguistic program wa s tion of existing categories (e.g., when a ixe­
combined with direct trammg m quent rime has multiple spellings, as in

letter-sound relarions. This mirrors the share/hair/where/their). It was argued that

¡¡¡;g findings reported by Bradley and Bryant future important directions for research on

,.,,. (1983) for an at-risk sample. Whereas chil­ phonology and reading acquisition include

dren who are not at risk far later lireracy research designed to help us to understand

� difficulties may benefit from phonological which aspects of phonological processing

awareness training alone (cf. Lundberg et are due to basic brain function and which

al., 1988; Schneider et al., 1997), those are culturally influenced and to help us to
!C'1ij who are likely to have specific problems in understand the relarive weight that needs to

acquiring literacy seem to need a combina­ be given to the different phonological units
tion of metalinguistic and letter-sound of syllable, rhyme, and phoneme and their

� training. Interestingly, rhe Schneider et al. connections with sequences of letters in d1f­

2,;j) {in press) srudy included an ar-risk group ferent orthographies. A better understand­

1 rhat received letter-sound training alone, ing of the factors that affect the transfer of
mlll ¡
without metalinguistic rraining. This group phonological awareness :1.cross different lan­

either performed at comparable levels in guages is a rhird important goal far future

later reading and spelling progress to che work.

1 metalinguistic rraining alone group or per­

formed at !ower Ievels rhan this group. This

suggests rhar "guiding�hj.ldren__�o_dis_cover
-1 -
and attend to the phonological srructure of Avons, S. E., Wragg, C. A., Cupples, L., & Love­
language" may be as important for lireracy grove, W. J. (1998). Measures of phonological

acquisition as direcr.ruirion in lerrer-sound

short-term memory and rheir relacion5híp to vo­

cabulary devdopment. .4.pplzed Psycho!mguistfcs,
19, 583-602.

BJker, L., Fernande:i:-Fein, S., Scher, D., &

;:� Williams, H. (1998). Home expenences re!ared to

Conclusion rhe de\'dopment of word recognitio:i. In J. L.

,\-lersala & L C. Ehn (Eds.), Word recogmtton in

This chapter has reviewed evidence for the beginning literaey (pp. 263-287). Ht!!sda!e, NJ:

propasa! that vocabulary acquisition pro­
Bowcy, J. A. (1995). Socioeconomic �t:1.tus differ­
duces developmental prcssure for the child
ences in preschool phonological sens,tinty and
to make implicir comparisons between simi­
first-grade reading achievement. Journal o{ Edu­
lar-sounding words in the mental lexicon, cational Psychology, 87, .176---487.

and thar such comparisons are one of rhe Bradley, L., & Bryant, P. E. (1978). Difficulties m