Reading and Writing

, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 453–485 | Cite as

Early linguistic abilities and reading development: A review and a hypothesis

  • Carsten Elbro


This article is concerned with aspects of phonological processing and linguistic awareness that may set the stage for initial reading development. The aims are first to provide a current review of phonological processes (both underlying and metaphonological) that have been found to be associated with initial reading achievement, secondly to present a new hypothesis relating differences in the nature of phonological representations in the lexicon to the development of phonological awareness and other phonological processes. The hypothesis is concerned withdistinctness of phonological representations, i.e. the separateness of phonological representations. Phonological representations of high distinctness are distinguished from other representations by many features. The distinctness hypothesis is compared to the lexical restructuring hypothesis which suggests that lexical representations gradually become increasingly segmental between one and eight years of age. Implications of each hypothesis (emphasizing the distinctness hypothesis) for the development of language abilities and reading are presented, along with suggestions regarding future research directions.

Key words

Phonological representation Phonemic awareness Phonological processing Early reading development Reading difficulties 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CopenhagenDenmark

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