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How Children Learn to Write Words$
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Rebecca Treiman and Brett Kessler

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199907977

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199907977.001.0001

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Symbolic Function

Symbolic Function

(p.124) Chapter 6 Symbolic Function
How Children Learn to Write Words

Rebecca Treiman

Brett Kessler

Oxford University Press

From an early age, children learn that writing stands for something outside itself. However, it takes some time for children to learn that writing is glottographic: that it symbolizes language. Children may instead think that writing is a first-order symbol that represents people and objects directly. Children realize early on that writing is not generally iconic: it does not look like what it stands for. More common is the idea that writing is an index: that it connects to its object through spatial or temporal contiguity. Evidence from studies using the moving word task supports this point. As children learn that the link between a piece of writing and its referent involves conventions that are shared by groups of people, and as they learn that a piece of writing is read the same way each time, they begin to grasp that writing is a second-order symbol. It gains its meaning because it represents language, which itself has meaning.

Keywords:   icon, contiguity, index, symbol, moving word task, conventionality, glottography, first-order symbol, second-order symbol

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