Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 16: 1–3, 2003.
© 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
SÃO LUÍS CASTRO
& LUZ CARY
University of Porto, Porto, Portugal;
University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
For a number of years, a group of researchers has regularly met to discuss
factors contributing to reading disability, with the ultimate goal of ﬁnding
ways to break down the barriers that reading disability places in front of
human development. These meetings were organized through a European
network funded by the European Union under the COST A8 Action on
“Learning disorders as a barrier to human development.” After having
explored such classical issues as dyslexia, phonological awareness, remedi-
ation strategies and others, general agreement arose that it would be useful to
step back and examine the link between language problems and speech. This
special issue was ﬁrst conceived of at the conference “Speaking and listening:
Its role in learning how to read and spell” held in Lisbon in December 1998
and was then developed into a series of papers.
Speech perception and production have not traditionally been central
to the study of language. Saussure (1985/1915: 155) intuited that thought
remained an amorphous, indistinct mass until captured into words. An
analogous intuition would require spoken language to be captured into the
durable form of writing to become real language. Indeed, George Miller
(1991: 26–30) considered words the units of analysis of the science of
language, deﬁning words as concepts, strings of letters, and morphemes.
Words as sequences of phonemes, words as coarticulated sets of vocal
gestures, were secondary characterizations (Miller, 1991: 65).
For decades the communities of speech science and of the psychology of
reading have hardly communicated with each other. But, just as we some-
times need to read aloud a passage in order to fully understand its meaning,
sooner or later the dialogue between reading and speech researchers is bound
to happen. How do speech perception and production skills impact on the
acquisition of reading and spelling? While this question raises important
theoretical issues of how speech and language interrelate (cf. Liberman &
Whalen, 2000), it is also in clear need of empirical study. This special issue
of Reading and Writing brings together contributions on this problem from
a number of diverse perspectives including cognitive psychology, speech
science, neuropsychology, neuroimaging, psycholinguistics, and modelling.