Sunday, December 9, 2012


For a good many years,  researchers in the  field of reading and linguistics approached the problem of the acquisition of knowledge from printed symbols with the idea that meaning was  assembled on a unit-by-unit basis  in linear sequence.  One began with small units,  such as letters  and words,  and then built up to  the larger units of sentences and paragraphs.

But while this view has been essentially discarded,  a  replacement has not yet been completely worked out.  A new view does  see the  eye-brain interaction as  not necessarily linear,  but rather complex,  and utilizing processes that allow the  apprehension of the visual stimuli of printed text at  several levels simultaneously.  Meaning seems  to  come  from an all-at-once grasp of the  relation of the  stimulus  to  the  reader's previous knowledge  structures,  rather than from a bit-by-bit build up.  We have  all had the  experience of glancing at a paragraph or page in order to  quickly derive meaning,  with no  recollection whatever of individual letters,  words, or sentences.  Meaning goes beyond particular forms.