Home > General Overview of the Competency Model > Modes of Cognitive Representation > The Verbal Mode > Literature Note - Verbal (Syntactic - Semantic) Mode

Verbal control is based upon the mapping of form to meaning established by the grammar and lexicon of a language. Verbal control in written texts initially derives from oral language (Shanahan, 2006), which displays gradual increases in syntactic and lexical complexity. Strong oral language skills usually co-occur with strong reading and writing skills (Loban, 1976), although Shanahan (2006) points out important complications in this picture. But control of written discourse requires greater awareness of form and meaning than is usual in conversational contexts, and this skill develops gradually across the school years (Berman, 2007). A striking illustration is found in Dabrowska and Street (2006), who observed qualitatively distinct comprehension patterns for passive sentences among more- and less- educated speakers. However, written language also influences oral language development, particularly vocabulary (Anderson & Freebody, 1981; Beck & McKeown, 1991; Nagy et al., 2000), though it is possible that metalinguistic awareness is a mediating factor (Nagy, 2007). However, metalinguistic awareness of form/meaning mappings is foundational to skilled writing. At least one method promoting such awareness—sentence-combining—has been shown to have a positive impact on writing quality (Graham & Perin, 2007; Sadler & Graham, 2005).

The aspects of language isolated in the verbal mode (vocabulary, syntactic structure, semantic interpretation of words and sentences) are core abilities shared across modalities and thus represent skills significantly transferred from oral language use to reading and writing. There is evidence that the same verbal representations are accessed across speaking and writing (Cleland & Pickering, 2006). Similar conclusions have been reached in the domain of reading, where construction of the verbal mode is widely viewed as essentially shared across listening and reading processes (Hoover & Gough, 1990).

Anderson, R. C., & Freebody, P. (1981). Vocabulary knowledge. In J. T. Guthrie (Ed.), Comprehension and teaching (pp. 77-117). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Beck, I. L., & McKeown, M. G. (1991). Conditions of vocabulary acquisition. In R. Barr, M. L. Karmil, P. Mosenthal, & D. D. Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (pp. 749-814). New York, NY: Longman.

Berman, R.A. (2007). Developing linguistic knowledge and language use across adolescence. In E. Hoff & M. Shatz (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of language development (pp. 347-367). London, England: Blackwell.

Cleland, A. A., & Pickering, M. J. (2006). Do writing and speaking employ the same syntactic representations? Journal of Memory & Language, 54, 185-198.

Dąbrowska, E., & Street, J. (2006) Individual differences in language attainment: Comprehension of passive sentences by native and non-native English speakers. Language Sciences, 28, 604-615

Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents in middle and high schools. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Hoover, W. A., & Gough, P. B. (1990). The simple view of reading. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 2, 127-160.

Loban, W. (1976). Language development: Kindergarten through grade twelve (NCTE Committee on Research Report No. 18). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Nagy, W. (2007). Metalinguistic awareness and the vocabulary-comprehension connection. In R. K. Wagner, A. E. Muse, & K. R.Tannenbaum (Eds.), Vocabulary acquisition: Implications for reading comprehension (pp. 52-77). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Nagy, W. E., Scott, J. A., Kamil, M. L., Mosenthal, P. B., Pearson, P. D., & Barr, R. (2000). Vocabulary processes. In M. Kamil, P. B. Mosenthal, P.D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research, Vol. III. (pp. 269-284). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Sadler, B., & Graham, S. (2007). The relationship between writing knowledge and writing performance among more or less skilled writers. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 23, 231-247.

Shanahan, T. (2006). Relations among oral language, reading, and writing development. In C. A. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of writing research (pp. 171-183). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

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