By Frank Smith

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The use of meta-linguistic terms poses yet other problems. Many of the words that children are expected to understand in order to benefit from reading instruction, in fact, make sense only when one is able to read. The word letter is a case in point and so is the word word. The status of a word in spoken language is extremely dubious; words cannot be segregated by any mechanical or electronic device from the continuous flow of normal speech (Cherry, 1966), and linguists prefer not to use the term at all.

The reader can not only attend to several words at a time but can also select what those words will be, the order in which they will be dealt with, and the amount of time that will be spent on them. There is, however, another demand that written language places upon the reader, elated not to memory but to the far more fundamental question of how we make sense of language in the first place. The question concerns how language is verified—how we confirm that the information we are receiving is true, that it makes sense, or, indeed, that we understand the message correctly.

I want” for the instrumental use of language. On the right of the list I have added for each item an alternative nonlanguage means by which the particular use to which language is put might also be accomplished. ) Interactional: “Me and you,” (Getting along with others, establishing relative status. ) Diversionary. ” (Statutes, laws,, regulations, agreements, con-. ) Non-language alternative Pantomime, facial expressions, screaming, pointing, grabbing. Pushing and pulling people around; modelling behavior for others to copy.

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Essays into Literacy by Frank Smith


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