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Title: Young children's understanding of written words as representations
Author: Collins, Jaime Stephen.
Awarding Body: University of Keele
Current Institution: Keele University
Date of Award: 2005
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On the moving word task 3- to 4-year-olds judge that a face-up written word changes in what it 'says' when moved from alongside a matching object to a nonmatching object. Bialystok (2000) interprets these errors as symptomatic of a misconception that words' meanings are flexible, and argues that surmounting this misconception is a prerequisite to reading. On the false word task 3- to 4-year-olds judge that a face-down word changes in what it says in line with a change to its referent. Thomas and colleagues (1999) argue that children make these errors because they assume that words physically change. Two experiments compared 3- to 5-year-olds' performance on face-up and facedown versions of the two tasks. Consistent with Bialystok's interpretation, children made errors on both tasks for face-up words, and consistent with Thomas and colleagues' interpretation, children were more likely to make errors for face-down words on the false word task and the moving word task employed in Experiment 2. Six experiments compared 3- to 5-year-olds' performance on the face-up moving word task with modified tasks. Children were less likely to treat face-up words' meanings as flexible on three new tasks: in the reverse task a word was moved from alongside a nonmatching object to a matching object; in the word exchange task two words were exchanged from matching objects to nonmatching objects; and when asked to make print say something different in the card tum task, children responded as if they assumed that the word's physical form needed to be changed rather than its pictorial context. The findings suggest that errors for face-up words are not indicative of a misconception, instead, they are maximised by demands intrinsic to the task. It is argued that, as with other representations, young children assume that words' meanings are fixed, but this understanding is fragile and can be overridden. With increasing familiarity with written words, children become better able to resist making errors for face-up words.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available