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Implications from

Phonology for Teaching

Reading and Teaching a
Second Language
30 Friday Mar 2012

Summary of Chapter 4: Essential Linguistics, (Freeman & Freeman, 2004).

In this chapter, the authors make a point to tell us the role of phonological and phonemic
knowledge in learning to read and in learning a second language. Additionally, they share
what insights from phonology can help in evaluating a method of teaching reading or a
method of teaching a second language.
There may be some debate over whether oral language is innate or learned but there is a
consensus over the fact that humans acquire their first language without instruction. The
authors tell us that when it comes to written language and second languages, there are
differing viewpoints (p. 74). The word recognition view places a strong emphasis on sounds
because identifying words involved recoding written marks into the sounds of language.
Readers need to understand that words in oral language are made up of individual sounds
known as phonemes. This knowledge is known as phonemic awareness. Also, readers need
to be aware of how sounds correspond to marks in writing. Phonics rules attempt to
capture these correspondences (p. 75). In the sociopsycholinguistic view, sounds are not as
central to learning to read. Readers use graphophonic cues, a combination of visual and
sound information, as they sample text and confirm predictions (p. 75).
Phonemic awareness is the ability to perceive and manipulate sounds (phonemes) that
make up words. Readers use phonemic awareness, in addition to letter sounds and names,
to learn and apply phonics rules to identify words. Stanovich (1986) coined the term
Matthew Effects in Reading. His research indicated that the biblical rich get richer and
poor get poorer story translated to reading. Students who were good readers read more

and became better readers while poor readers read less and fell further and further behind
(p. 75). According to him, phonemic awareness helps children learn to read and reading
helps build phonemic awareness.
Phonological awareness is the ability to distinguish larger units of speech, such as words and
syllables while phonemic awareness (a type of phonological awareness) is the ability to
identify and manipulate phonemes in words. Adams (1990) identified these five levels of
phonemic awareness: 1. hear rhymes and alliteration in nursery rhymes 2. do oddity tasks
3. blend or split syllables 4. perform phonemic segmentation 5. perform phoneme
manipulation tasks (p. 76).
One of the most common tests of phonemic awareness is the Yopp-Singer test (Yopp 1992),
which asks students to segment words into phonemes. Phonemic awareness is a key to
word recognition. Researchers believe phonemic awareness may develop in some children
as a result of early literacy experiences but, for the children who are bot so lucky to have
early literacy experiences, teachers should teach phonemic awareness directly and
systematically. This is the perspective of those who take the word recognition view of
reading (p. 78).
Researchers who take a sociopsycholinguistic view of reading would argue phonemic
awareness is subconscious. To understand a language, a person must acquire the ability to
perceive this continuous stream of sound as being made up of component parts. When an
English speaker listens to a person speak a language they do not understand, it can be
difficult to tell which pars of the stream are words. They must be able to do this to learn
the language. Children acquiring language and people acquiring a second language develop
the ability to perceive differences in meaning based on phonemic differences in words. For
instance, a child knows a bee is different from a knee, not because of the phonemic
difference, but because of the difference in meaning. If reading is a process of recognizing
words, then phonemic awareness is regarded as a subskill readers must learn in order to
make sense of phonics rules and to apply those rules (p. 79).
Students learning ESL must develop control over English phonology. Early methods of
teaching second languages (i.e. the grammar translation method) were based on a theory
that language must be learned. Students studied parts of the language and translated texts
across the languages. The goal of the instruction was to enable the students to read and
write and little emphasis was placed on speaking and listening. Therefore, phonology did

not play a role in instruction. Luckily, later methods involved teaching students to speak
and listen in the second language. The popular ALM (audiolingual method) had students
engaging in dialogues and practicing the language using a variety of activities. However,
more importance was placed on pronunciation than on meaning and meaningful
communication did not occur. These methods have been replaced by current methods,
which are based on the acquisition model (i.e. Krashens Natural Approach). The teacher
strives to give comprehensible input to the students and they focus on constructing meaning
as they use the language. The idea is that the student will eventually learn the grammar,
syntax, etc. naturally after they have received enough comprehensible input (p. 84). This
method focuses on meaningful communication.
Three linguistic factors educators need to be aware of are allophones, dialect differences,
and language differences. These can be harmful to learners of a second language if they
are focusing on the language itself rather than focusing on making meaning of the language
(pp. 87-93).

English orthography is the orthography used in writing the English language, including
English spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation. Like the
orthographic systems of most world languages, it has a broad degree of standardization. However,
unlike most languages, English provides more than one way to spell nearly everyphoneme, and
most letters and letter-combinations can stand for different pronunciations depending on context and
meaning. This is largely due to the complex history of the English language[1] together with the
absence of systematic spelling reforms. In general, modern English spelling, much of which was
devised originally for the phonetic spelling of Middle English, does not reflect the sound changes that
have occurred since the late fifteenth century (such as the Great Vowel Shift).[2] There are
some variations in English orthography by global regions, some of which resulted from spelling
reform efforts that succeeded only partially and only in certain regions. Some orthographical
mistakes are common even among native speakers.[3]

Semiotics (also called semiotic studies; not to be confused with the Saussurean tradition
calledsemiology which is a part of semiotics) is the study of meaning-making, the study of sign
processes and meaningful communication.[1] This includes the study of signs and sign processes

(semiosis), indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor,symbolism, signification, and

Semiotics is closely related to the field of linguistics, which, for its part, studies the structure and
meaning of language more specifically. The semiotic tradition explores the study of signs and
symbols as a significant part of communications. As different from linguistics, however, semiotics
also studies non-linguistic sign systems. Semiotics is often divided into three branches:

Semantics: relation between signs and the things to which they refer; their
signified denotata, ormeaning

Syntactics: relations among or between signs in formal structures

Pragmatics: relation between signs and sign-using agents or interpreters

Semiotics is frequently seen as having importantanthropological dimensions; for example, Umberto

Eco proposes that every cultural phenomenon may be studied as communication. [2] Some
semioticians focus on the logical dimensions of the science, however. They examine areas
belonging also to thelife sciencessuch as how organisms make predictions about, and adapt to,
their semiotic nichein the world (see semiosis). In general, semiotic theories take signs or sign
systems as their object of study: the communication of information in living organisms is covered
in biosemiotics (including zoosemiotics).
Syntactics is the branch of semiotics that deals with the formal properties of signs and symbols.

More precisely, syntactics deals with the "rules that govern how words are combined to form

phrases and sentences".[4]

Charles Morris adds that semantics deals with the relation of signs to their designata and the objects
that they may or do denote; and, pragmatics deals with the biotic aspects of semiosis, that is, with all
the psychological, biological, and sociological phenomena that occur in the functioning of signs.

Current applications[edit]

Chart semiotics of social networking

Applications of semiotics include:

It represents a methodology for the analysis of "texts" regardless of the medium in which it is
presented. For these purposes, "text" is any message preserved in a form whose existence is
independent of both sender and receiver;

It may improve ergonomic design in situations where it is important to ensure that human
beings are able to interact more effectively with their environments, whether it be on a large
scale, as in architecture, or on a small scale, such as the configuration of instrumentation for
human use.

Defining Semiotics
Have you ever thought about why certain words mean what they do? In an age when 'mouse' can
mean a little rodent or a computer device, it's easy to question exactly what words mean and how we
make sense of them. This question of meaning is at the heart of semiotics.
Semiotics is the study of sign systems. It explores how words and other signs make meaning. In
semiotics, a sign is anything that stands in for something other than itself. This lesson focuses
primarily on linguistic signs.

The word 'semiotics' dates back to ancient Greece, but its use in modern linguistics was propelled in
the 19th century with the research of Ferdinand de Saussure. Saussure was a Swiss linguist who
contributed greatly to the study of semiotics, also sometimes referred to as semiology.
Scholars of modern linguistics understand that words do not have innate meanings. That is, when we
say the word 'rabbit', it is not because those sounds or letter symbols have anything to do with the
qualities of a small, furry herbivore. In fact, the word, sounds, and letters are all unrelated to the
creature we call rabbit, except that humans have assigned a value to them.
Because people have developed the ability to assign meaning with words, we are able to describe
abstract meanings. This means we have words for things that we may not be able to actually see in
front of us. Furthermore, the history of a word may not directly influence what it means to someone.
As an example, we can use the word 'cool' without any thought or reference to temperature. The
usage is separate from its history.
For Saussure, language itself makes meaning rather than simply conveying meaning. Therefore, our
experience is influenced by the language we use to describe it. This meaning-making is why the
theories of Saussure have become important to literary theory. When we understand that language
is a sign system and not just a naming of objects, we read and discuss literary works differently. We
are able to analyze the various meanings embedded in a text and how one text influences another.

Understanding Meaning-Making
Saussure developed a widely used model of semiotics. In order to understand his model, one must
recognize the difference between what he called la langue (language) and la parole (speech). La
langue is the set of language rules that every speaker understands, including how to make sounds
into words and words into sentences. La parole is the actual utterance made by a person.
You can think of communication like swimming. La langue is the swimming pool, and la parole is the
water. To be conducive to swimming, water needs a structure to hold it together, like speech needs
the structure of our language system (la langue). The words we speak (la parole) make sense based
only on the structure that holds them together, just like water can only be used for swimming if
something contains it.
Signs are a basic component of la langue. They are like the pumps that push water into the pool.
Pumps are part of the pool's structure that make it possible for water to come forth. Similarly, a sign
must also exist for the speech act, or la parole, to occur.

A Linguistic Perspective
on Phonics
30 Friday Mar 2012



Chapter 6: Essential Linguistics, (Freeman & Freeman, 2004).

In this chapter, the authors help us understand how phonics fits into each of the two views
of reading, the difference between phonics and graphophonics, some alternatives to
traditional phonics, and the linguistic basis for phonics.
In order for phonics instruction to occur, children must have an understanding of phonemes
and the letters of the alphabet and their corresponding sounds. Only then can they go on to
understand phonics rules (p. 131). Those who advocate for phonics instruction insist that
it be systematic and explicit (Freeman & Freeman, 2004, p. 131). Systematic and explicit
phonics requires students to first understand that words are made up of individual sounds
and know the names of each letter. Systematic phonics is directly teaching letter-sound
relationships of consonants and vowels in an organized manner. Teaching explicit phonics is
also done through direct teaching Explicit teaching involves stating rules clearly, providing
examples, and giving students practice in applying the rules (p.132). Smith (1973), points
out that there are too many rules and exceptions for teachers to teach to kids. A reader
must infer from context how to pronounce a word. Also, a reader must use context to
determine which part of speech and tense the word is. Simply sounding out words is not
enough to make sense of text. Smith says, readers do not read each letter from left to right
but scan whole words and sentences to determine meaning and pronunciation (p.134-135).
Many people who have never taught and have never studied language claim that phonics is
the best way to teach reading, but linguistic evidence suggests that this popular belief is not

based on real scientific evidence (Freeman & Freeman, 2004, p. 135). Adams (1994)
claims that skillful readers visually process virtually every letter of every word as they
read; this is true whether they are reading isolated words or meaningful, connected text
(p. 141). Eye movement studies support Smiths claims. Although readers have the
sensation that their eyes sweep smoothly across the page as they read, the eyes actually
moves in a series of jumps called saccades (p. 136). According to Freeman and Freeman
(2004), eye movement research supports the sociopsycholinguistic view of reading. Paulson
and Freeman (2003) claim around two-thirds of the words in a text are sampled (p. 136),
and the brain gathers just enough information needed to decipher text; often skipping
prepositions and conjunctions (pp. 136-137). According to Freeman and Freeman, Smith
claims that readers do not recode words by going from left to right letter by letter. Readers
have to know what the whole word is to assign phonemic values to individual letters.
Krashen (2003) claims that learned rules can be used to monitor output (p.139). It is
difficult to apply learned rules during speaking because of the rules, time, and attention to
language forms, not meaning (p.139).
Graphophonics is different from phonics. Teachers who teach phonics focus on specific rules
that connect sound and spelling. Students are asked to learn these rules and apply them as
the major means of decoding texts; phonics knowledge is seen as a prerequisite for
reading. In contrast, graphophonics is knowledge that is acquired. Such knowledge is not
conscious, and students can seldom state the rules they use to pronounce words. However,
they can use their knowledge of the relations between sounds and letters to pronounce new
words. Graphophonics develops as students read. Readers use graphophonic cues and their
background knowledge, to construct meaning from text (p. 150).

According to Freeman

and Freeman, In fact, the only way that this subconscious knowledge can be developed is
through reading and being read to. Graphophonics is a result of, not a prerequisite for,
reading. Assimilation is when phonemes become similar to the phonemes next to them.
Coarticulation is an example of assimilation and occurs when two phonemes are produced or
articulated in the same place in the mouth (Freeman & Freeman, 2004, p. 140). Whenever
a nasal stop precedes an oral stop within a syllable, the two stops will have the same place
of articulation (Freeman & Freeman, 2004, p. 141).