University of Cambridge > > Psychology & Education > In what way is literacy ‘parasitic upon language’? The roles of speech and language in literacy development.

In what way is literacy ‘parasitic upon language’? The roles of speech and language in literacy development.

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ABSTRACT: For many years researchers have argued that literacy is parasitic upon the mechanisms of spoken language, but the relationships between spoken and written language difficulties remain unclear. We know that phonological awareness (awareness of speech sounds) is a key deficit in dyslexia, but what is the relationship of phonological awareness and spoken language? In order to examine the relationships between speech, language, phonological processing and literacy, a sample of 198 children were asked to complete a set of tasks in these areas. Eighty of the children had either speech and language problems or a family history of dyslexia.

While children with speech and language difficulties were at increased risk of literacy difficulties as a whole, many children in this group did not show difficulties. Multivariate analysis suggests that language is very closely related to phonological processing, and that the two factors share common variance in the prediction of literacy. The role of speech was less clear, and seemed to vary depending on the nature of the speech difficulties shown.

Biographical note: Julia Carroll is an Associate Professor at the University of Warwick, having started there as a lecturer in 2004. She completed her undergraduate degree at Oxford University, and went on to complete her PhD in 2001 working with Maggie Snowling at the University of York. She is interested in typical and atypical literacy development, and in the literacy development of children with developmental disorders

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