Alphabetic Principle – the idea that letters and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language.

Automaticity – the carrying out of tasks without the conscious use of attention.

Breve – a diacritical mark (symbol added to letters of the alphabet to indicate the pronunciation required) placed above a vowel to indicate the vowel says what is referred to as its short sound, e.g., ă.

Categorical perception – the neural mechanism by which the brain sorts slight variations in speech sounds into groups. (In an analogy to color variation, one would see shades on a continuum of blue to green as blue or green with none perceived as blue-green.).

Consonant digraph – two letters representing one speech sound, (ch represents /ch/ in chin).

Decoding – the use of alphabetic skill to work out the identity of a word.

Derivational morpheme – a unit of meaning which when added to a word or another morpheme results in a new word being ‘derived’ (formed).

Diphthong – a sound that begins as one vowel sound and gradually changes to a second vowel sound.

Fluency – the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression in order to be able to understand what is read.

Grammar - the system and structure of a language consisting of syntax and morphology.

Inflectional morpheme – a unit of meaning which when added to a word (always a complete word) changes the function but not the meaning.

Macron – a diacritical mark (symbol added to letters of the alphabet to indicate the pronunciation required) placed above a vowel to indicate the vowel sounds like its name, referred to as the long sound, e.g., ā.


Phonological Short-Term Memory – a distinct form of memory that receives and stores information in its phonological form.
Working memory – a form of memory that provides for holding information in mind and manipulating or transforming that information.
Visuospatial Short-Term Memory – the passive memory component that receives and stores visual and spatial information.
Executive Working memory – a form of memory that manages the content of other memory subsystems.

Morphology – the study of the meaningful units of language and how they are combined in words.

Morphemes – the smallest meaningful units in language such as a word or part of a word including roots, prefixes and suffixes (unhappiness is made of happy with a prefix un- and a suffix -ness.

Orthography – a writing system that represents a language.

Phonemes – sound segments that are distinctive (distinguish words), e.g., the initial sounds in big and pig; the smallest units in the sound systems of a language.

Phones – an unanalyzed sound of a language.

Phonemic Awareness – the skill supporting awareness that words, both written and spoken, can be broken down into smaller segments of sounds (phonemes) and that the letters constituting the printed word represent the sounds (phonemes) heard in the spoken word (may be considered a sub-category of phonological awareness).

Phonetically equivocal – the condition in which there could be more than one spelling for a sound or sounds, but only one spelling is correct.

Phonetically irregular – the condition in which the spelling for a sound in a word is not the standard spelling for that sound.

Phonics – a method of teaching reading that trains recognition of the sound values of individual letters.

Phonological Awareness – sensitivity to the phonological structure of a language, including phonemes.

Phonological Recoding – application of knowledge of sound/spelling correspondences to read phonetically-regular or phonetically irregular words, and to recognize more advanced words through application of knowledge of sound/spelling pattern combinations, sounds/particular patterns such as –ed endings, and “chunks” of sounds/morphemes.

Phonology – the sound system of a language, which includes the inventory of sounds and the rules for their combination and pronunciation; also, the study of the sound systems of languages.

Phonetic Analysis – a process by which the phonetic representation of a word may be derived (In Essential Word-Knowledge Skills, the procedure requires determining the number of sounds in a written word which is spoken followed by determining the spelling for each sound whether the word is phonetically regular or irregular.).

Schwa – the vowel sound occurring in an unstressed syllable for which the tongue is in the center of the mouth and is neither high nor low.

Syntax – The arrangement of words and phrases used to form sentences.

  • Grammar - Refer to Rachel Grenon’s Grammar: The Structure of Language (2012) for a clear and concise description of the elements of grammar.
  • Alphabetic Principle - Refer to Isabelle Y Liberman, Donald Shankweiler, and Alvin M. Liberman’s “The Alphabetic Principle and Learning to Read” in Haskins Laboratories Status Report on Speech Research, (1990), the seminal article on the alphabetic principle and the phonological structure of words.
  • Memory - Refer to Milton J. Dehn’s Working Memory and Academic Learning (2008) to better understand the relationship between working memory, spoken language and written-language skill.
  • Phonological Awareness - Refer to Joseph K Torgesen and Patricia B. Mathes’ A Basic Guide to Understanding, Assessing, and Teaching Phonological Awareness (2000) to better understand the relationship between phonological skill and learning written-language skills.