Viewpoints: The Word and the World: Reconceptualizing Written Language Development or Do Rainbows Mean a Lot to Little Girls?

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Abstract

Arguing that current research has fragmented educators' vision of both written language and development, this article aims to contribute to a more integrative vision, one that preserves the integrity of written language as a symbol system. Based on a critical consideration of literature both on written language growth and on the role of symbols in human experience, the article suggests five principles that would seem to characterize written language development: the establishment of equivalences, exploration and orchestration of the system, reliance on shifting relationships of form and function, differentiation and integration of symbolic functions, and participation in social dialogue. These principles highlight the dialectical relationship between function and form, between child construction and adult guidance. The articulated vision of development differs in fundamental ways from most current viewpoints, as it does not consider written language as simply an extension of the child's oral language but as the evolution of a distinct symbolic option with links to the child's entire symbolic repertoire. The implications of this viewpoint for both sociopolitical and pedagogical issues of literacy construction in early schooling are discussed.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-123
Number of pages27
JournalResearch in the Teaching of English
Volume25
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1991

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