How do illiterate adults react to metalinguistic training?
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The present study focuses on the capacity of illiterate adults to master three different metalinguistic tasks: judgment of phonological length of words, initial consonant deletion, and lexical segmentation of sentences. Illiterates’ performance, during a pre-test and after training, was compared with that of literates and partial illiterates (adults at the beginning of the process of acquiring literacy) who received the same training. In the pre-test, illiterates were lower than literates in the three tasks; and partial-illiterates were at an intermediate level in two of the tasks. The three groups profited from the training, especially illiterates and partial-illiterates for whom improvement was dramatic across all three tasks. Finally, the results revealed a hierarchy of difficulty across the tasks. The capacity to focus on the phonological dimension seemed to be a prerequisite for the phoneme deletion ability. The task of lexical segmentation seemed to be more a measure of syntactic awareness than a measure of phonological awareness.
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