Thema's en trends in de sociolinguistiek 4
  • ISSN 0169-7420
  • E-ISSN: 2213-4883
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Children cannot mark well word boundaries in spoken language before they are about seven years of age, although some researchers (e.g., Karmiloff-Smith et al. 1996) claim a much earlier emergence. Different explanations have been put forward for the development of word marking skills: on the one hand developmental hypotheses which claim a primary role for language development or cognitive development, on the other hand the literacy hypothesis, which claims that systematic experience with written language is crucial for the development of formal metalinguistic skills, including the skill of marking words. The developmental hypothesis predicts age differences, i.e. between young children and adults, irrespective of literacy. The literacy hypothesis predicts differences between readers and non-readers, irrespective of age. Moreover, in the developmental hypotheses, it would not matter whether word boundaries were to be marked in a language with or without skill in the written language. The literacy hypothesis was tested twice in this contribution, first by comparing sentence segmentation skills of young children, adult illiterates and adult readers. It was tested again by comparing the segmentation skills of adult readers, whose mother tongue is only known in spoken form (speakers of Tarifit) with readers who know their mother tongue both in spoken and in written form. All comparisons confirmed the literacy hypothesis that knowledge of writing influences awareness of word boundaries in spoken form.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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