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.
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