Written language skills and the notion of "Lexicon"
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionUppstad, P. H. (2006): Written language skills and the notion of "Lexicon". L1 – Educational Studies in Language and Literature 6(2006)1, pp. 85 – 97.
In mainstream theory about written language skills there is a strong relation between the notion of 'lexicon' and 'phonology'. The work of both researchers and teachers is rooted in this theoretical relation between lexicon and spoken language, which originates from the linguistic tradition of the past century. The problem with this position is that it has never been treated as a real hypothesis, and we should therefore not base our professional work on it without moderation. In the present article my aim is to show how different combinations of psychological and linguistic theories have different options and limitations concerning the relation between lexicon and phonology. In doing so, I claim that the mainstream theory of written language skills –particularly its relation between lexicon and phonology – is not the most plausible and defensible solution. In the present article I claim that it is possible to investigate the relation of speech and writing on a stronger empirical basis, and that this can be done by first giving equal validity to spoken and written language, and second by giving preference to theory with a minimum of introspection. The paper addresses researchers working with written language skills, and teachers who want to reflect on basic assumptions related to their profession. First, some assumptions concerning the mental lexicon in mainstream theory of written language skills are questioned. These assumptions are here linked to cognitivism and linguistic formalism. Second, alternative assumptions are derived from a pairing of functional approaches to language and connectionism. These alternative assumptions may be seen as contributions to a revitalized understanding of the connection between phonology and lexicon when studying written language skills.