Phonological recoding and self-teaching: sine qua non of reading acquisition

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The self-teaching hypothesis proposes that phonological recoding functions as a self-teaching mechanism enabling the learner to independently acquire an autonomous orthographic lexicon. Successful decoding encounters with novel letter strings provide opportunities to learn word-specific print-to-meaning connections. Although it may not play a central role in skilled word recognition, phonological recoding, by virtue of its self-teaching function, is regarded as critical to successful reading acquisition. This paper elaborates the self-teaching hypothesis proposed by Jorm and Share (1983), and reviews relevant evidence. Key features of phonological recoding include an item-based rather than stage-based role in development, the progressive "lexicalization" of the process of recoding, and the importance of phonological awareness and contextual information in resolving decoding ambiguity. Although phonological skills have been shown to be primary in reading acquisition, orthographic processing appears to be an important but secondary source of individual differences. This implies an asymmetrical pattern of dissociations in both developmental and acquired reading disorders. Strong relationships between word recognition, basic phonological processing abilities and phonemic awareness are also consistent with the self-teaching notion. Finally, it is noted that current models of word recognition (both PDP and dual-route) fail to address the quintessential problem of reading acquisition - independent generation of target pronunciations for novel orthographic strings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-218
Number of pages68
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1995

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authorw ishest o thank Zvia Breznitz,T ony Jorm, C.K. Leong, Iris Levin, Ingvar Lundberg,R od Maclean,J acquesM ehler,Joseph Shimron, Linda Siegel, Keith Stanovicha, nd three anonymourse viewersfo r helpful commentosn an earlierv ersiono f this manuscriptT.h e preparatioonf this manuscripwt as supportedi,n part, by grants from the Basic Research Foundationa, nd the Israel Academyo f Sciences.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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