Chinese, Phoenicians, and the Orthographic Cipher of English
Philip B. Gough Margaret A. Walsh University of Texas at Austin
To read English, one must know two things. One must know the English language, and one must know the orthography of English. Put otherwise, in order to read, one must be able to recognize the words on a page, and then one must understand those words.
We call this the Simple View of reading ( Gough & Tunmer, 1986; Hoover & Gough, 1990.) It is disavowed by most scholars, probably because they believe that the processes of recognizing words and comprehending text are inextricably intertwined. But there is evidence that we can think of them as separate skills.
For one thing, the two processes can be dissociated ( Gough & Tunmer, 1986). The average 5-year old can understand a story, yet cannot read, and the dyslexic can exhibit superior listening comprehension accompanied by decidedly inferior decoding ( Vellutino, 1979). On the other hand, many of us can, like Milton's daughters, adequately decode a language we do not understand, and the hyperlexic can evidently decode his native language quite skillfully, yet understand it poorly ( Healy, 1982).
Moreover, there is evidence that even within the normal range of reading ability the two processes make separate contributions to reading ability. The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory measured the decoding, listening and reading skills of 210 bilingual first graders and took the same measures in the second, third, and fourth grades. Hoover and Gough ( 1990) have analyzed these data to show that, at each grade level, the product of the child's decoding and listening scores correlates .84 or above with reading.
So we hold that reading ability (R) equals the product of decoding ability (D) and listening ability (C): R = D x C. We know little about listening ability; we guess that it is made of up knowledge of the language, combined with