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Brain Lang. 1998 Jan;61(1):115-22.

Effects of literacy and education on measures of word fluency.

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  • 1Health South Harmarville Rehabilitation Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA 15238-0460, USA.


As part of a cross-national study of dementia epidemiology, two types of verbal fluency tasks were administered to three groups of subjects, varying in level of literacy and education, recruited from the rural district of Ballabgarh in northern India. Subjects were asked to list items in a given semantic category (animals; fruits) or words beginning with a given sound (the phonemes /p/ and /s/) the latter being a minor modification of the more familiar initial letter fluency task in view of the high prevalence of illiteracy in Ballabgarh. Analysis of variance revealed main effects of education and task with a task by education interaction such that education had a greater effect on initial sound fluency than on category fluency. The results are discussed in terms of their implication for the design of cross-cultural studies and the evidence that the ability to segment speech into phonemic units is dependent on literacy.

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