Language Theories

Otto Jesperson - Gender

Deviant Model - 1922

Book- 'Language: It's nature, development and origin.'

Female language is not worth anything and wasn't worth studying.

Included a single chapter titled 'The Woman' which stated that womens language is languid and insipid due to their use of less advanced vocabularly.

HOWEVER, theory is from 1922 so may be outdated.

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Robin Lakoff - Gender

Deficit Model - 1975

Book: 'Language and Womens Place'

Women are socialised to sound 'lady-like' through things such as semantic derrogation and sex exclusive language.

Features of female language: Hedges, empty adjectives, superpolitness, tag questions, greater use of italics, hypercorrect grammar and less imperatives.

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Deborah Tannen - Gender

Difference Model - 1990

Book: 'You Just Don't Understand'

REPORT VS RAPPORT:  6 opposites

Status vs. Support, Independence vs. Intimacy, Conflict vs. Compromise, Info vs. Feelings, Orders vs. Proposals, Advice vs. Understanding.

Women use language to express emotion. Men use it to share information and give orders.

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O'Barr and Adkins - Gender

Dominance Theory

Collected transcripts from a court room.

Found that it was a weak language, not female language. Female lawyers used 'male' language features whereas male offenders used 'female' language features. Powerful language associated with powerful positions, not gender.

In history women haven't been able to acquire powerful jobs so used less powerful language and got correlated to it.

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Deborah Cameron - Gender

Difference Theory - 2007

Book: 'The Myth of Mars and Venus'

Greater difference within gender than between them. Language is based on personal interest (idiolect) and social group (sociolect) more than gender. Thought to be gender as same gender typically have similar interests.

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Martha's Vineyard - Accent and Dialect

Labov (Dialectology)

Island only accessible by boat or plane. Summer populatine 5x that of the winter population.

Labov studied the pronunciation of the /au/ and /ai/ dipthongs, specific groups (upislandes, fisherman and 31-45 year olds) pronounced them

as /əu/ and /əi/ to create an islander identity and seperate themselves from visitors.

Young residents spoke most like visitors: SOCIOLINGUISTIC MATURATION

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Wallace Lambert - Accent and Dialect

Matched Guise Technique

Different groups of participants showed the same clip of a man saying the same thing but in different accents (polyglot accent) and asked to rate him on different qualities such as: Attractiveness, intelligence, persuasiveness etc.

RP was rated the most attractive, intelligent and persuasive but the most cold and curt. regional accents said to be most friendly. 

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Aziz Corporation - Accent and Dialect

Accents and Business Appeal

Questionnaire given on opinion of certain accents in the workplace: 79% said regional accents were a disadvantage.

Scottish accent most successful region: 43% successful, 40% hard working and 31% trustworthy

Scouse accent least successful: 15% successful, 9% hard working and 8% trustworthy.

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Labov - Accent and Dialect

Department Story Study

R pronunciation in New York. 3 stores, each of a different class (Macy's, S.Kleins and Sak's)

Asked for a department on 4th floor, twice, to see pronunciation of R in conscious and subconscious speech.

R pronunciation stronger in higher class stores, R pronunciation strengthened  in all stores when asked to repeat.

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Consonant Dropping - Accent and Dialect

Consonant Dropping

Petyt- H dropping in Bradford. Non-Standard English use had a class positive correlation. Upper class: 12%. Lower Class: 93%

Trudgill- Norwich. Substituting 'ng' velar nasal for 'n' alveolar nasal. Men tended to do it more in all modes of communiaction

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John Humphrey's - Technology

Negative view of Textspeak

John Humphreys: British Broadcaster

'Textspeak is pillaging our punctuation, savaging our sentences and rapin* our vocabulary'

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Technology's Effect on Language - Technology

The Two Views

Carrington- Saw textspeak as a form of lingusitic compression. Initialisms, acronyms, abbreviations etc. take away from the complexity of language and thus compress it.

David Crystal- Saw textspeak as widening our lexicon and adding to people's sociolects. believed that we weren't depleting language but just adding to how it can be used

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Abbreviations - Technology

Caused by Technology?

Oxford Dictionary: IOU - 1618, Cos - 1828, Wot - 1829


In 1942 Eric Partridge published his Dictionary of Abbreviations (50 years before the first text.)

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Functional Theory - Technology

The Functional Theory looks at the idea that language must change to fit the user and the context the user is in. Therefore, language change is inevitable and needs to happen. Language must change to fit the needs of technology.

Roman Osipovich Jakobson: 'The phonological, grammatical and semantic structures of language are determined by the functions they have to perform in the societies in which they operate'

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Ostler - Technology

Lingua Franca

Ostler believed that technology would cause English to fade as a Lingua Franca due to the easy ability to translate between languages.

Although, in its infancy, there is technology being developed whch will allow for instant translation through an earpiece. So a speaker can use their mother tongue and the person listening can hear it in their own. No need for lingua franca.

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French and Raven - Power

Power Bases

  • Legitimate: A person who has genuine right to make demands and expect compliance
  • Reward:The ability to reward another for compliance.
  • Expert: Someone who has superior knowledge or skill in something
  • Referent: A person who has power because they are respected based on their attractiveness, intelligence etc.
  • Coervice: The ability to punish another for non-compliance.

Powerful people exercise multiple forms of power base, not just one.

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Types of Power - Power

Influential or Instrumental?

Instrumental: Power backed by status within social hierachies. Has a right to make demands. Types: Positional: power to make demands due to position within a context. Practical: Power due to having something to offer or be able to offer services.

Influential: Power based on a persons ability to influence those around them, not able to legitimately make demands. Types: Pedagogiccal: A person who has greater knowledge or intelligence of a particular topic. Personal: Having a friendship with those they're trying to influence, where they are seen as respected.

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Drew and Heritage - Occupation

Study of Workplace Talk

Summarised differences between everyday social conversations and workplace conversations:

Workplace talk was more goal orientated, used professional lexis, had greater use of turn taking and asymmetry.

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Herbert and Straight - Occupation


Herbert and Straight stated that in the workplace, compliments always flow from those of higher rank to lower.

This is due to the higher rank having more power and having the authority to comment on and reward an employee/collegue's work. (Reward Base)

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Swales - Occupation

Professional Community

Once you start working you become a member of a professional community.This community has a set of professional practises and shares specialist knowledge and velues. Resulting in a shared professional lexicon (Jargon)

EXAMPLES OF JARGON: Doctors: B.I.D (means twice a day medication), BP (means blood pressure)

Teacher: CD-ROM (pre-pressed optical compact disc which contains data), block scheduling.

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Wenger - Occupation

Communities of Practice

Groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something. They learn how to do things better as they interact regualrly.

In terms of occupation, those working on a project may accomodate their language to better communicate with their collegues and complete a task to a better quality.

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English's Expansion - English in the World

English has evolved from a localised language spoken by 5-7 million people in 1600 (all in the UK)

Now spoken by between 1.5 billion and 2 billion people across 75 territories.

400 million L1, 400 million L2 and 6-700 million EFL speakers

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Kachru - English in the World


Illustration (

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Schneider - English in the World




Exonormative Stabilisation


Endonormative Stabilisation


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Different Englishes - English in the World

African English: Has over 10,000 words only used in South Africa which would not be understood by English speakers from other countries.

For example; 'Robot' in African English means traffic light.

Every country has a new English formed based on cultural, political and economic factors. For example; in Britain we say 'it's like Clapham Junction' meaning it's busy, as Clapham junction is a very busy train station. This would not be understood in other countries.

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Lingua Franca - English in the World

How did English become the Lingua Franca?

POLITICS: English Empire - USA, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa.

ECONOMICS: 19th Century Britain was the worlds leading industrial and trading nation. 1700-1800 no country could match Britains economic growth. Gross National product rising 2% a year.

Britain and USA (London and NYC) invested over $10 billion abroad

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The English Timelines - Language Change

OLD ENGLISH- (5th Century) Celtic. Viking raids in 793-11th Century (anglo Saxons and Old Norse had an effect on language. Latin was still highly regarded.

MIDDLE ENGLISH-(11th Century) Norman Invasion. French was the verbal language of the court and administration. Latin was the language of written documents. At the end of Middle English Chaucer wrote in English.

EARLY MODERN ENGLISH-(15th Century) Caxton's printing press 1476 (South East dialect was the basis for new Standard English.) Growing interest and pride in the English Language.

MODERN ENGLISH- Grammarians began to examine the structure and grammar of language.

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Lexican Change - Language Change


Coinage/neologisms: Completely new words

Borrowing: Taking words from other languages.

Conversion: Words change function, e.g from a verb to a noun

Compounding: Joining two words together to make a new word

Blending: Taking parts of two words and mixing them

Back Formation: Shorter word, is derived from an already exisiting one by removing an affixation.

Affixation: Longer word is derived from an already existing one

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Inkhorn Words - Language Change

The Inkhorn Controversy

16th-17th century. Writers of Renaissance began to coin, compound, fix or borrow from the Romance Languages.

Latin: Bishop, Sophisticated, Imaginary

French: Guard, Inherit, Administer

Spanish: Cafeteria, Cargo, Breeze.

Inkhorn terms were seen as pretentious and artificial but enabled creativity. Shakespeare introduced over 1700 'new' words.

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Fix the Language? - Language Change


Published: A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue.

Main concerns:

Vagueness of language 'poverty of conversation'

Shortened words.

Unnecessary contractions.

Unnecessary polysyllabic words.

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Semantic Change - Language Change

Generalisation:Word broadens in meaning. E.g Holiday used to mean one Holy Day.

Narrowing: Word narrows in meaning, becomes more specific. E.g Meat used to mean food in general.

Amelioration: A word gains a more positive meaning. E.g pretty used to mean sly or cunning.

Pejoration: A word gains a more negative meaning.Villan used to mean farm worker.

Weakening: Meaning of a word becomes more vague, used for many things. E.g thing used to mean a meeting or an assembly.

Polysemy: Words acquire many meanings which coexist with the original E.g milk

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Change from Above and Below - Language Change

Change from above means speakers are consciously aware of a change and they can comment on this. An example for a change from above is the variable (r) studied by William Labov (1966) in New York City. New Yorkers are aware of both the r-ful and the r-less variant of this variable. They regard the r-ful variant better, which is positively valued and accredited with prestige.

Change from below means linguistic change in a speech community below the level of a speaker’s conscious awareness. In this case speakers are not consciously aware of a linguistic change in progress in a community.

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Skinner - CLA

Behaviourism 1957

Skinner believed children learnt to speak through imitation and reinforcement from those around them, copying their language (no influence from internal mechanisms)

HOWEVER, cannot explain grammatical errors such as 'I wented' or virtuous errors. CAn't explain how language is learnt so quickly. Also, it's based on studies of rats and pigeons, hard to generalise.

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Chomsky - CLA

Innateness - 1972

Chomsky believed all children are born with the LAD (LAnguage Acquisition Device) meaning we are all born with grammar structures and components innately determined about language.

99% biology, 1% environment.

(Lenneberg's critical period hypothesis states that there are maturational constraints on the time a first language can be acquired)

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Piaget - CLA


Piaget argued that a child cannot say something before they cognitively understand it. Language develops parallel to cognitive development.

E.g young children struggle to talk about the past because they can't understand the concept.

Schemas- Bundles of information based around the world. As these develop children speak more as they understand more

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Bruner - CLA

Interactionist View

Bruner believed children are born with a LASS (Language Acquisition Suport System.) Caregivers support their childs linguistic development through social interactions and attachments.

Support and aid childrens partial biological/cognitive innateness to language.

E.g Feral Children do not learn to speak if they are deprived of human interaction. Oxana Malaya (Raised by dogs)

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Shatz - CDS


Shatz found that only 4% of errors were explicitly corrected by parents. Parents tended to correct vocabulary more than grammar.

This may be because over-correction can deplete a childs confidence meaning they won't want to attempt to learn language.

Parents tend to use recasting, scaffolding and re-phrashing.

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Nelson - CDS


Nelson found that, within the Holophrastic stage, children whose mothers corrected them more actually developed slower in terms of lingusitic capability.

Nelson argued this is because over correction depletes a childs confidence, making them unwilling to speak as much through fear of making an error.

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Roger-Brown - CDS


Roger-Brown argued that parents respond to the truth value of what their child says as oppose to repsonding to incorrect use of grammar.

For example, if a child sees a cat and says 'that's dog' the parent will correct the fact they said dog instead of cat but not the fact they eliminated the determiner 'a.'

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Clark-Stewart - CDS

Clark-Stewart found that children whose mothers spoke to them more develoepd a greater repetoire of vocabulary and grammar ability.

This may be because the child hears more words and is thus able to learn them faster, also, social use of language has a greater impact on a childs language than passive language use, such as watching television.

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Kuhl - CDS

Phonetics of CDS

Kuhl studied the exaggerated vowel sounds used by parents when speaking to their 6 month olds (in English, Russian and Swedish.)

It was found that babies turned towards adults who spoke in sing-song voice and tended to ignore regular conversation.

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Childrens Language - CDS


Diminutives: Reduce the scale of an object by addition, 'doggy', more phonetically pleasing.

Reduplicated words: Repeated syllables, 'choo choo'

Substitution: Swapping one sound for another so it's easier to pronounce, 'think' becomes 'fink'

Assimilation: One consonant or vowel is swapped for another which is easier to say, 'yellow' becomes 'lellow.'

Deletion:Omitting a particular sound within a word, 'flying' becomes 'flyin''

Consonant Cluster Reductions: Complex units reduced to simpler ones from 2+ syllables to one, 'dish' to 'dis'

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Halliday - CLA


Instrumental: Used to fulfil a need of the speaker, 'want juice'

Regulatory: Used to influence behaviour of others, 'put down'

Interactional: Used to develop social relationships, 'goodnight'

Personal: Used to express preference and identity, 'me like that'

Representational: Used to exchange information, 'It's red'

Heuristic: Used to learn and explore the environment, 'why?'

Imaginative: Used to explore the imagination, 'I am superman'

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Holophrastic Stage - CLA

The holophrastic stage (11 months-1.5 years of age.) Children can produce some single words and many sounds. Children use sounds and words which get the attention of their parents (e.g. mama, dada, etc.) Children will over-generalize to maximize the effectiveness of their communication.

The child uses one word to replace whole phrases or sentences. They associate one word with multiple meanings, which generally isn't taught to them and it's something they pick up from interacting with adults. An example is 'milk'. By only using the word milk, the child could mean 'I want milk', 'I spilled my milk', 'Where is the milk?', etc

By this point, a child can use and understand many features of language. They understand phonology and can distinguish between different sounds. Children are developing a wider lexicon.

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Two Word Stage - CLA

A few months after the one word stage, a child will begin to use two words and continue to do so until they are around the age of 2.5 years old. These two-word utterances are usually in the form of noun-noun or noun-verb. An example (noun-verb) might be 'doggie bark'. This stage only contains content words (no function words or morphemes yet). A child's lexicon usually develops to around 50 words and then takes a dramatic leap forward and is commonly called the 'word spurt' or the 'naming explosion'. 

A child has a better understanding of syntax and semantics. Children here still abbreviate words and lack many of the smaller grammatical words and endings of English. Developing an understanding of how to categorize words they hear. Children at this stage don't need to be explicitly taught, they can develop their own sense of meaning when it comes to new words. They aren't taught how to structure their phrases, but know how to due to the LAD (Language Acquisition Device). 

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Telegraphic Stage - CLA

The telegraphic stage - around 2.5 years of age and onward until a child has fluent language skills. Children progress very quickly and develop language at a much faster rate now that they have grasped the essentials of language.

Over this stage children often expand their lexicon by as many as ten to twelve new words a day, most of which are new social interaction words such as yes, no, please, by, etc. to discover these new words, many children at this age ask a large amount of questions such as 'who, where, what' etc. Develop a good understand of what each individual word means and how to use them. Children do not appear to be making word order errors, but their sentences are shortened. They generally follow the order of the subject, verb and object, such as 'doggie bark me' might mean 'the dog barked at me'. The first inflection children learn is usually 'ing', followed by plurals and how plurals are formed. Children in the telegraphic stage are still lacking function words and morphemes and do not quite know how to use.

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Berko and Brown - CLA

The Fis Phenomenon

The Fis Phenomenon showed that children may have an understanding of phonemes before they have the physical ability to pronounce the phoneme.

Describes how a child referred to a plastic fish as his 'fis.' An adult then asked 'is that you fis?' to which the child said 'no, my fis' as the child was aware the adult was not pronouncing fish correctly.

The child is aware of the correct way to pronounce fish, however, they don't have the phonetic ability to pronounce it correctly yet. Cognitive understanding may precede phonetic ability.

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Jean Aitchinson - CLA


Aitchinson argued that 'language has a biologically organised schedule'

1.Labelling-Making a link between the ounds of words and the objects they refer to.

2.Packaging- Understanding a words range of meanings, when over and under extension become a problem.

3.Network Building- Grasping the connections between words, understanding some words are opposite in meaning etc.


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Jean Berko - CLA

The Wug Test

A child is presented with an imaginary creature, 'a wug,' then they are given two and asked 'there are now two of them, there are two __' the answer being 'wugs.' Used to test how children understood plurals.

75% of 4-5 year olds got the suffix correct compared to 97% of 5-7 year olds. Supporting Chomsky's LAD theory as children weren't taught the plural wugs.

However, they found it harder to add '-es' for example, 'houses.'

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Bellugi - CLA


STAGE 1 (2 years): Children use 'no' and 'not.' Usually used at start or end of clauses and aren't grammatically sophisticated. 'No sit there.'

STAGE 2 (2 years, 3 months): Negation appears mid-utterance and in the form of contractions. 'No' and 'not' are in front of verbs. Children will say no in the position of not. 'That's no my ball!'

STAGE 3 (2 years, 9 months): Negations mostly correctly positioned and in contraction form. 'I didn't caught it'

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Extension - CLA

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Eckert - Ethnicity

The Jocks and the Burnouts - 1989

A Jock is an enthusiastic participant in an activity (in this case, school) whereas Burnouts are the antithesis, likely to rebel and misbehave.

Eckert found that Jocks tended to follow the language patterns of their elders (teachers, parents etc.) whereas the burnouts spoke in an individual way (a resistance identity.)

A resistance identity is one which seperates a particular group from the social norms and from figures of authority.

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Creole - Ethnicity

16th Century - Slavery. Trade terms intertwined between Caribbean and British (a pidgin.)

1940's - Large scale arrival of Caribbean people (post war job recruitment.) Created a form of patois. By 3rd generation speakers it was referred to as London Jamaican.

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MLE - Ethnicity

Speakers of MLE come from a wide variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and live in diverse inner-city neighbourhoods such as Brent, Lambeth and Hackney.

As a result, it can be regarded as a multiethnolect. Research has found that it is diversity of friendship groups that is most important; the more ethnically diverse an adolescent's friendship networks are, the more likely it is that they will speak MLE.

In the press, MLE is often referred to as ‘‘Jafaican’’,because of popular belief that it stems from immigrants of Jamaican and Caribbean descent.However, research suggests that the roots of MLE are much more complex

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Ben Rampton - Ethnicity

Ben Rampton (2010):

'Creole is widely seen as cool, tough and good to use. It is associated with assertiveness, verbal resourcefulness, competence in heterosexual relationships and oposition to authority.'

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Jeanne Chall - CLA

Related image (

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Whole Word - CLA

Whole language learning is less focused on rules and repetition. It stresses the flow and meaning of the text, emphasizing reading for meaning and using language in ways that relate to the students' own lives and cultures. Whole language classrooms tend to teach the process of reading, while the final product becomes secondary. The "sounding out" of words is not used in whole language learning. Instead, children are encouraged to decode each word through its larger context. Flash cards learn word with object/meaning.

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Whole Word - CLA


The weakness of whole language methods is that some children never get a full phonic foundation.

 They are unable to decode unfamiliar words.

Research has shown that good readers always use phonics to decipher new words.


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Phonics - CLA

Children are taught to dissect unfamiliar words into parts and then join the parts together to form words. By learning these letter-sound relationships the student is provided with a decoding formula that can be applied whenever they encounter an unfamiliar word.

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Phonics - CLA


Consonant letters sounds: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z

Blend sounds: br, cr, dr, fr, gr, pr, tr, wr, bl, cl, fl, gl, pl, sl, scr, str, sm, sn, sp, sc

Short vowel sounds: a, e, i, o, u. Always teach short vowel sounds first
Digraph sounds: sh, ch, th, wh. Two letters combine to make a different sound.
Double vowel sounds: ai, ea, ee, oa. These pairs say the name of the first vowel.
Other double vowel sounds: oi, oo, ou, ow
R controlled vowel sounds: ar, er, ir, or, ur. Er,ir and ur make the same sound

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Phonics - CLA


Consonant letters sounds: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z

Blend sounds: br, cr, dr, fr, gr, pr, tr, wr, bl, cl, fl, gl, pl, sl, scr, str, sm, sn, sp, sc

Short vowel sounds: a, e, i, o, u. Always teach short vowel sounds first
Digraph sounds: sh, ch, th, wh. Two letters combine to make a different sound.
Double vowel sounds: ai, ea, ee, oa. These pairs say the name of the first vowel.
Other double vowel sounds: oi, oo, ou, ow
R controlled vowel sounds: ar, er, ir, or, ur. Er,ir and ur make the same sound

Silent E: Bossy, doesn't say anything but makes vowel before it say its own name.

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