ERIC Number: ED222859
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1980-Dec-20
Reference Count: N/A
A Word Is a Word: Metalinguistic Skills in Adults of Varying Literacy Levels.
Hamilton, Mary E.; Barton, David
As part of a wider study of metalinguistic skills, a study examined the metalinguistic awareness of the concept "word" of adults at different literacy levels. Subjects, 60 adult monolingual English speakers enrolled in adult education classes, were divided into three groups according to reading level. Data were gathered through a structured interview consisting of (1) questions about the segmental structure of English, (2) an oral vocabulary test, (3) a question asking for the definition of "word," (4) questions asking for judgments of oral and graphic items, and (5) background questions about schooling and language experience. Analysis of the content of the subjects' definitions revealed three main kinds of features--units, meaning, and functions--with an increasing elaboration of references to units with reading level and a change in the kind of functions referred to, with written functions mentioned more often by lower readers. Analysis of definitional form reinforced the idea that higher level readers are more likely to talk of words as "units of language." In contrast to some developmental theories, these results suggest that factors other than developmental level affect people's concept of "word" and that metalinguistic skills are not one, undifferentiated domain but may be tied into specific areas of cognitive experience and expertise. Literacy is critical to some of these skills but not to all. (JL)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Inst. of Education (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Stanford Univ., CA. Dept. of Linguistics.