The Role of Semantic Knowledge in Learning to Read Exception Words

Nicola Dawson, Jessie Ricketts

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In research and clinical practice, oral and written language skills have often been treated as separate domains. Yet they do not exist independently. Reading skills are contingent upon earlier acquired oral language skills, and the process of reading fosters growth in oral language. The importance of semantic knowledge for reading comprehension is well-documented, but there is growing evidence that it also plays a significant role in word reading. In English, a distinction can be made between regular words that follow predictable spelling-sound mappings, and exception words that do not. Oral language knowledge may be particularly important for the latter as it functions to supplement partial decoding. For speech and language pathologists, it is important to consider how remediation targeted at improving oral language skills may also elicit benefits for reading development, and conversely how reading might be used to support oral language development. Practitioners should be aware of the pattern of literacy impairments that they are likely to encounter in children with developmental language disorder, and how this relates to their oral language profiles. The purpose of this paper is to enable practitioners to generalize their knowledge and skills across the artificial boundaries that have traditionally separated these two domains.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-104
Number of pages10
JournalPerspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • reading
  • exception word
  • irregular word
  • vocabulary
  • semantics

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