Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 15: 1–3, 2002.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Introduction on timing and phonology
ZVIA BREZNITZ & DAVID SHARE
University of Haifa, Israel
Reading acquisition in an alphabetic orthography is an activity lacking any
evolutionary basis. The human brain evolved hundreds of thousands of years
before orthography was discovered. An alphabetic orthography, in which
orthographic symbols represent neither meaningful words, nor acoustically
integral syllables, but abstract and meaningless units of speech (phonemes)
is, understandably, only a recent cultural invention. Basic cerebral mechan-
isms have evolved to deal with vision and spoken language but not ‘visible
language’. The fact that the brain is not ‘wired’ for reading partly explains
why reading does not come ‘naturally’ like speech or visual perception which
both appear very early and universally in child development. This cultural
‘imposition’ on the brain makes learning to read an alphabetic orthography
a challenge not only for young children but also for scientists seeking to
understand what is surely one of the most complex human accomplishments.
Yet despite these obstacles, the last several decades have witnessed major
scientiﬁc advances in our understanding of the nature of reading acquisition
and the causes of reading difﬁculty.
It is now well established that dyslexia is primarily a language
(sub)disorder manifested in a speciﬁc difﬁculty processing the sounds
(‘phonology’) of language. But this is not the whole picture; many pieces
of the puzzle are still missing. Dyslexia research is now seeking to identify
additional sources of variance beyond phonology while important progress
is being made in the elucidation of the biological and genetic bases for
One factor that has attracted considerable attention (and contention) is
temporal-sequential processing. This interest derives both from the intuitively
appealing notion that reading requires extraction and integration of visual-
orthographic and phonological information over time and from recurring
reports of an empirical connection between temporal deﬁcits and reading
disability. The temporal deﬁcit hypothesis of dyslexia is by no means a
newcomer to the ﬁeld (see, e.g., Bakker 1972; Zurif & Carson 1970).
In particular, the work of Tallal (1980) on auditory-temporal processing
and Lovegrove and colleagues on visual transient/magnocellular deﬁcits in