Development of Orthographic Knowledge and the Foundations of Literacy: A Memorial Festschrift for Edmund H. Henderson

By Shane Templeton; Donald R. Bear | Go to book overview

6 The Prosody of Oral Reading and Stages of Word Knowledge

Donald R. Bear University of Nevada, Reno

The aim of this chapter is to show that orthographic knowledge and the use of prosodic features are related, and that knowledge of orthography affects movement through text. The unusual roles of orthography and prosody were described as early as 1637 by Ben Jonson when he wrote: "Prosody, and orthography are not parts of grammar, but are difused [sic] like the blood and spirits through the whole" (OED, p. 1492). Recent studies have come to similar metaphoric conclusions. Cutler and Isard ( 1980) likened prosody to a good sauce, thus highlighting the need to study combinations of prosodic features within the context of the full spectrum of language systems: "and like a good sauce, the realization of a sentence's prosodic structure is a blend of different ingredients none of which can be separately identified in the final product" (p. 245).

Emphasizing the extralinguistic nature of prosodic features, Thomas Hood, the humorist and poet ( 1799-1845), compared prosody with a parapet on a bridge:

Prosody may be a means to an end but it does not pretend to assume its attainment. Versification and logic are to poetry and reason what a parapet is to a bridge; they do not convey you across, but prevent you from falling in. (as quoted in Zeiger, 1947, p. 366)

In reading, it is as if prosodic features guide the temporal movement across patterns in the visual array.1

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1
The role of logic here is like the focus one must maintain to read with expression and to comprehend. In the sentence, "You bought a ticket for her!" any number of words can be

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