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Q J Exp Psychol A. 2000 Nov;53(4):1081-104.

A small-to-large unit progression in metaphonological awareness and reading?

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Dundee, Scotland, U.K.


The paper reports a series of studies of reading and metaphonological processing by children in their second year in primary school (aged 6 years). An earlier study had established that, in the first year of learning, performance was characterized by a small-unit approach in which graphemes and phonemes were emphasized. In the second year, reading became more sensitive to the frequencies of rime structures in the lexicon. Capacity to generate word analogies for nonwords also showed increasing commitment to rime-based responses, and this trend was strongly linked to reading age. The present results suggest that a small-unit approach to reading is augmented by a large-unit approach as development proceeds. This trend was reflected in performance on a test of explicit phonological awareness. When asked to report the segment of sound shared by two spoken words, Primary 1 children were poor in reporting shared rimes but relatively adept in reporting shared phonemes. During Primary 2 there was an improvement in ability to report shared rimes, and this trend was also related to reading age. These results are discussed in relation to the influence of instruction and the nature of the orthography in determining the course of reading development.

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