Spoken Vocabulary Growth and the Segmental Restructuring of Lexical Representations: Precursors to Phonemic Awareness and Early Reading Ability
In this chapter, we present a model of the development of spoken word recognition, the processes involved in matching speech input to lexical patterns stored in memory. Our lexical restructuring model was formulated to account for developmental changes in the structure of spoken word representations and the growth of phonological awareness (see also Metsala, 1997a, 1997b; Walley, 1993b). According to this model, the representations supporting spoken word recognition become increasingly segmental with spoken vocabulary growth, and this change makes possible explicit access to phonemic units. We propose that lexical restructuring is a protracted process that extends into early and even middle childhood. This restructuring is influenced by the words that are known at a given point in time and that must be distinguished from one another for successful recognition. Variations across children in lexical growth and in the restructuring process contribute to individual differences in phonemic awareness, and thus success in learning to read an alphabetic orthography (for a similar position, see Fowler, 1991).