But our data suggest an even stronger conclusion. Although there are no skilled Chinese or Phoenicians, there are semiskilled readers who might be called Phoenician (because they know the cipher but lack word-specific information). But there is no Chinese counterpart: There are no readers of English (or, we suspect, of any other alphabetic orthography) who are even semiskilled without knowing the cipher. If a leader does not have the cipher, he can only be a poor reader.
We conclude, then, that the cipher is the basis of reading ability in English. It is not one of two equivalent mechanisms for word recognition, two equal partners in the practice of reading. The cipher is the basic mechanism, the senior partner. To be sure, it is not enough; it must have help. By itself, the cipher will fail to recognize many (perhaps a majority) of the words in English. So further information, word-specific information, must also be acquired. But that information must be added to the cipher, and the cipher supports the whole endeavor. Reading ability in our language, like its orthography, begins in Phoenicia.
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