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The Role of Metalinguistic Awareness in the Effective Teaching of Foreign Languages


Anthony David Roberts

Attempts to explain children’s ability to focus on language as medium rather than message have varied dramatically over the years. Studies in the field of metacognition have shown that this has a bearing on children’s growing metalinguistic awareness. Conversely, children’s ability to reflect upon and control their own use of language has been seen to have a bearing on the emergence of general metacognitive processes. However, significant differences have emerged not only in the interpretation of the research findings but also in the attempt to reconcile such findings with those of traditional anecdotal sources and to create more explanatory theoretical models.
Starting with a critical review of the various theoretical approaches in the area of metacognition, this book explores in detail a socio-cultural approach, examining the origin, function and cognitive status of metalinguistic awareness. By elaborating and refining the analysis of writers such as Vygotsky in the light of new developments in relevant fields, the author also seeks to outline a model which can be applied to the pedagogic process. The book will be of interest to students and scholars of children’s language development, applied linguistics and cognitive psychology, as well as to teachers of foreign languages at all levels.


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Appendices 347


Appendix 1 Rubin’s ‘A theoretical taxonomy of the dif ferences between oral and written language’ reading a note left in the kitchen having a conversation on a linked computer terminal interaction temporal communality listening to a cassette from a friend reading a letter from a friend modality spatial temporal communality watching a play interaction spatial communality temporal communality concreteness of referents talking on the phone listening to a conversation CHILD spatial communality concreteness of referents interaction involvement listening to a lecture spatial communality temporal communality separability of characterss separability of characters concreteness of referents interaction concreteness of referents modality listening to someone read a play hearing a report of a conversation modality concreteness of referents separability of characters modality temporal communality separability of characters reading comics modality spatial communality temporal communality reading a lecture concreteness of referents separability of characters separability of characters reading a play reading a story with pictures listening to a story modality Dif fers only in terms of message separability of characters modality separability of characters concreteness of referents reading a story without pictures concreteness of referents 348 Appendix 1 Rubin’s ‘theoretical taxonomy’ outlines a process of decontextualisation which proceeds from, at one end, ‘listening to a conversation’ to, at the other, ‘reading a story without pictures’. There are, he claims, a wide range of intermediate stages between these two extremes which can be charac- terised by the interplay of a number of dimensions, which include: modality• , i.e. the dif ferences between the spoken and written...

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