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Mattingly, Ignatius G.; Kavanagh, James F.The Relationships between Speech and Reading.Netional Inst. of Child Health and Human Development(NIH), Bethesda, Md.NIH-73-4757324p.National Institute of Child Health and HumanDevelopment, H.E.W. Dept., Bethesda, Md. 20014(Free)
MF-$0.65 HC-$3.29Child Language; Cognitive Processes; *LanguageDevelopment; Learning Modalities; *Linguistics;Listening; *Reading Processes; *Reading Readiness;Reading Skills; *Speech; Standard Spoken Usage
ABSTRACTAn account of the relationship of reading to language
that depends on a distinction between primary linguistic activityitself--the processes of producing, perceiving, understanding,rehearsing, or recalling speech -and the speaker-hearer's awarenessof this activity was proposed at a conference sponsored by theNational Institute of Child Health and Human Development and entitled"Communicating by Language--The Relationships Between Speech andLearning to Read." Participants also considered what, besidescompetence in his native language, is necessary before the child canlearn to read. If language is acquired through maturation rather thandeliberately and consciously learned, linguistic awareness is notnecessary. But reading is a secondary language-based skill, not aprimary linguistic activity, and so requires a degree of linguisticawareness, particularly (for English) of morphophonemic segments.(TO)
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Adapted from an article in The Linguistic Reporter, October, 1972.Prepared by the Office of Public InformationNational Institute of Child Health and Human DevelopmentNational Institutes of Health
and keading..111.Ignatius G. Mattingly and James F. Kavanagh
(Ignatius G. Mattingly is Professor of
Linguistics at the University of Connecticutand a member of the research staff
at Haskins Laboratories.James F. Kavanagh is Health Scientist
Administrator with the Growth and DevelopmentBranch of the National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development,National Institutes of Health.)
()HEW Publication No. (MN) 73-475
For scientists who have a specialconcern with languageresearch-ers in linguistics, phonetics,speech science, experimental psy-chology, and communications en-gineeringno subject 'in theschool curriculum arouses asmuch interest as reading. It Isimpossible to speculate verydeeply about reading withouttouching on the nature of thoughtand language, and on the funda-mental role that reading plays inthis society. At first, of course, be-
cause his own experience of learn-ing to read is so far in the past,the speculator takes his literacyfor granted, just as he does hisability to speak and to listen tolanguage. It is regrettable thatsome have speculated no furtherand rashly issued ex cathedradirectives about the proper meth-ods of reading instruction. Thosewho do consider a little furtherrealize that reading is really arather remarkable activity whichcould hardly have been predicted
from what is presently knownabout the production and percep-tion of speech and language.
Recent "research by linguists ingenerative grammar and by experi-mental phoneticians in speechperception has, if anything, madereading seem even more remark-able. The form of natural lan-guage, as well as its acquisitionand function, Chomsky (1965)tells us, are biologically deter-mined. There is good reason tobelieve, according to Liberman et
al. (1967), that linguistic corn-'munication depends on some Veryspecial neural machinery, intri-cately linked in all normal humanbeings to the vocal tract and theear. It is therefore rather surpris-ing to find that a substantial num-ber of people can also, somehow,perform linguistic functions withtheir hands and their eyes. Read-ing seems more remarkable stillwhen one considers that only inmodern Western culture is it abasic social skill. Some civiliza-tions have attained a high level ofculture without being literate atall; in many others, reading andwriting were the prerogatives ofthe hierarchy or the skills of thespecialist. But this society insists
that everyone learn to read and, ifhe wishes to obtain or ietainmiddleclass credentials, to read insilence, rapidly and efficiently. InAugustine's (397 A.D.) Confes-sions (Book VI), he records hisamazement on finding that whenhis teacher, Ambrose, was read-ing, "his eye glided over thepages, and his heart searched outthe sense, but his voice andtongue were at rest . . . the pre-serving of his voice (which a verylittle speaking would weaken)might be the . . . reason for hisreading to himself." How sur-prised Augustine would be if hecould see millions of childrenlearning to do Ambrose's littletrick.
Just about a year ago, a group,including researchers in all thedisciplmes mentioned earlier, metunder NICHD sponsorship at Bel-mont, the Smithsonian InstitutionConference Center in Maryland, forthree days of papers and discus-sion on the relationships betweenspeech and reading.' For the mostpart, they were people who hadspecialized not in the study ofreading but in areas related to itin interesting ways: speech pro-duction and perception, phonol-ogy, information processing, lan-guage acquisition, memory. Butthe group also included a fewpeople who had carried on re-search in reading for mdny years.
The original purpose of the con-ference was to consider speechand reading from the psychologi-cal and linguistic points of view,but the cultural role of readingcame in for some heated discus-sion as well. In retrospect, itseems that there was one questionwhich recurred throughout theconference. The question arose invarious guises which may seemquite dissimilar at first. Its most
familiar guise is the question ofreeding readiness: just what, be-sides competence in his nativelanguage, is necessary before thechild can learn to read? Anotherversion is, can reading and listen-ing, as Bloomfield (1942) andFries (1962) thought, be regardedsimply as parallel processes indifferent modalities, converging atsome point on a common linguisticpath? Or, finally, one can put the
question very abstractly: is it reailypossible to represent the relation-ships betneen speech and readingin the form of a nontrivial blockdiagram?
To answer these questions, or atleast to understand them'better, itseemed worthwhile to consider anumber of differences betweenspeech perception and readingthat are interesting because theycannot be attributed merely todifferences in modality.' To begin
1 The conference was entitled "Com-municating by LanguageThe Relation-ships Between Speech and Learning toRead." Those who attended or contri-buted to the conference included, inaddition to the present authors, WilliamF. Brewer, John B. Carroll, Carol Conrad,R. Conrad, Franklin S. Cooper, RobertCrowder, Eleanor J. Gibson, Philip B.
Gough, Morris Halle, James J. Jenkins(co-chairman), Edward S. Klima, Paul A.Kolers, David LaBerge, Joe L. Lewis,Alvin M. Liberman (co-chairman), Isa-belle Y. Liberman, Lyle L. Lloyd, JohnLotz, Samuel E. Martin, George A. Miller,Donald A. Norman, Wayne O'Neil, MontePenney, Michael I. Posner, Merrill S.Read, Harris B. Sevin, Donald Shank-
weiler, and Kenneth N. Stevens. Theconference proceedings are publishedas Language by Ear and by Eye (Kav-anagh and Mattingly, 1972).2 These differences were pointed out byLiberman at an earlier NICHD con-ference (Kavanagh, 1968).
with, listening is easy and readingis hard. All living languages arespoken languages, and everynormal child acquires throughmaturation a tacit knowledge ofthe grammatical rules of his na-tive tongue and can speak andunderstand it. In fact, we areforced to conclude that the childhas in some sense an innate abilityto perceive speech, for withoutsome such ability he could not col-lect the linguistic data thatChomsky (1965) asserts are re-quired to infer these grammaticalrules. Indeed, some recent workby Eimas et al. (1971) suggeststhat a four-week-old infant is cap-able of phonetic discrimination.On the other hand, relatively few
languages in the history of theworld have been written lan-guages, and the alphabet seemsto have been invented only once.In general, children must be de-liberately taught to read, and de-spite this teaching, many of themfail to learn. Someone who hasbeen unable to acquire languageby listeningfor example, a con-genitally and profoundly deaf childwill hardly be able to acquire itby reading; on the contrary, achild with a language deficit owingto deafness will have great diffi-culty !earning to read properly.
Secondly, the form in which in-.formation is presented is basicallydifferent for the listener and the
reader. The listener -is processing3 complex acoustic signal in whichthe speech cues lie buried. (A"speech cue" is a specific acousticevent that carries linguistic infor-mation; for example, the aspirationthat distinguishes voiceless / p, t,k/ from voiced / b, d, g/ .) Thecues are not discrete events, wellseparated in time and frequency;they blend into one another incomplex ways. The segmentalsounds the listener perceives quiteoften have no obvious segmentalcounterparts in the signal. To re-cover the phonetic segments, thelistener has first to separate thespi.:ech cues from a mass of ir-relevant detail. The process islargely unconscious; and in many
cases a listener is quite unable tohear a speech cue as a purelyacoustic event; he hears onlyphonetically (Mattingly et al.,1971). The complexity of thelistener's task is indicated by thefact that no scheme for speechrecognition by machine has yetbeen devised that can perform itproperly: The reader, on the otherhand, is processing a series ofsymbols which are quite simply re-lated to the physical mediumwhich conveys them. The marks inblack ink are information; thewhite paper is background. Thereader has no difficulty in seeingthe letters as visual shapes if hechooses to, and optical characterrecognition by machine, though it
is a very challenging problem forthe engineer, is one that clan besolved.
If reading and listening differedonly in modality, one would expectthat a visual presentation ofspeech that preserved the essen-tial linguistic information couldlbe easily read and, conversely,that an acoustic representation ofwritten text which clearly differ-entiates the sounds representingthe letters would be easy to listento. But neither prediction is cor-rect. It is possible to displayspeech visually in the form of asound spectrogram, which showsthe distribution of energy in theacoustic frequency range over
time. We know that a spectrogramcontains most of the essentiallinguistic information, for it canbe converted back to acousticform without much loss of intelli-gibility (Cooper, 1950). Yet read-ing a spectrogram is very slowwork at best, and at worst, im-possible. The converse task, "read-ing" written characters repre-sented in acoustic form, is some-what easier but not very fast. Forexample, Morse Code, or thevarious acoustic alphabets for theblind reader, can be understoodonly at rates much slower than atypical listening rate for speech.
Finally, the number of differentsounds used in speech in all the
languages of the world is rela-tively small. These sounds can beclassified in terms of theft com-ponent phonetic featuresvoicedor voiceless, stop or fricative,labial or dental or velarand thenumber of these features is verysmailfifteen or twenty at most(Stevens and Halle, 1967). But thesituation with the writing systemsof the world, as one can verify byspending an hour or two lookingat the plates in David Diringer'sbook, The Alphabet (1968), is verydifferent. Formally speaking, thesymbols used in writing. systemshave an endless variety, and so doconventions for arrangement ofsymbols on the page. Swift (1727)does not exaggerate in his descrip-
tion of the writing system of theLilliputians in Gulliver's Travels:"Their manner of writing is verypeculiar, being neither from theleft to the right, like the Euro-peans; nor from the right to theleft, like the Arabians; nor fromup to down, like the Chinese; norfrom down to up, like the Casca-gians, but aslant from one cornercf the paper to the other, likeladies in England." (Book I, Chap.6)
However, if one looks at a writingsystem not just as an ensemble ofvisible marks but as a representa-tion of some linguistic level, onefindsla more orderly variation. Thepossible levels seem to range from
the morphemic to the phonetic.Chinese characters are essentiallymorphemic; no information aboutpronunciation is given. If onewishes to read aloud in some dia-lect of Chinese one must havememorized he phonetic values ofthe characters in that dialect. TheEnglish writing system, asChomsky (1970) has remarked, isessentially morphophonemic. Thuswe use the letter s for the regularplural morpheme even though iii isphonetically realized not only as[s] in cats but also as [z] in cansand as [GZ] in cases. The ortho-graphy preserves the morphologi-cal relationship between sign andsignature even though the phoneticvowel written as i is different in
the two words and the g is pro-nounced in signature but silentin sign. But, as Martin points outin his conference paper, English,unlike Chinese, does not alwaysdefine the morpheme boundariesclearly. Are misled, molester, andbedraggled to be read as mis +led,molest+er, and be+draggled oras misl+ed, mole+ster, and bed+raggled? Still other writing systemsare fairly close to the phoneticlevel, for instance those used forFinnish or Spanish. Either theirmorphology is less complex thanthat of English, or some of themorphological complexity ismasked by the written languagefor the sake of phonetic regular-ity. In his conference paper, Klima
explores this range of orthographicvariation from a theoretical stand-point, proposing several conceiv-able orthographic conventions forrepresenting morphological andphonological content of sentences.
Twenty years ago, it could [lavebeen said that the range of writ,ngsystems spread over most of theknuwn linguistic domain and thatin principle there was no interest-ing restriction on the linguisticlevels they represented, but thefindings of the generative gram-marians and the experimentalphoneticians compel a drastic re-vision of this view. It is now clearthat there are extensive areas insemantics, syntax, and speech
perception which are part of thespeaker's competence in his nativelanguage. Yet, except for the pur-pose of examples in the literatureof linguistics and phonetics, onedoes not encounter writing con-sisting of deep structure tree dia-grams and transformations, or, onthe other hand, writing consistingof articulatory patterns, narrowPhonetic., transcriptions, distinc-tive features, or spectrographicpatterns.3 Thus, it now appearspossible to make a significantgeneralization about writing sys-
toms. They actually represent, asCooper pointed out at the con-ference, a relatively narrow lin-guistic stratum. Moreover, thisstratum does not include the levelat which the listener perceivesspeech. In short, writing tends torepresent language at the morphe-mic, morphophonemic, or broadphonetic level, while speech repre-sents language at the acousticlevel.
The differences which have beenlisted indicate that even thoughreading and listening are both
clearly linguistic and have an ob-vious si.milarity of function, theyare not really parallel processes.Instead, a rather different accountof the relationship of reading tolanguage is proposed. This ac-count depends on a distinctionbetween primary linguistic activ-ity itself and the speaker-hearer'sawareness of this activity. Primarylinguistic activity consists of theprocesses of producing, perceiv-ing, understanding, rehearsing, orrecalling speech. Many investiga-tors have come to think that these
3 There have been a few interesting ex- .ceptions to this generalization. Theliankul alphabet of the Koreans (de-scribed by Martin in his paper for theconference) and the experimental writ-
ing systems of Wilkins (1668) and A. G.Bell (1867) described by Dudley andTarnoczy (1950) represent each speechsound by a symbol depicting articula-tion, and Potter, Kopp, and Green
(1947) used a mo\,ing sectrographicdisplay in a project to teach the deaf toread spe'ch sounds.
processes are essentially similar,since they all require the con-struction or reconstruction ofutterances in both phonetic andsemantic form (Neisser, 1967). Asa cover term for all these proc-esses, the term synthesis may beused.
Having synthesized some utter-ance, the speaker-hearer is con-scious not only of a semantic ex-perience (understanding the ut-terance) and perhaps an acousticexperience (hearing the speaker'svoice) but also of experience withcertain intermediate linguisticprocesses. Not only has he syn-thesized a particular utterance,but he is also aware of having done
so and can reflect upon this ex-perience as he can upon his ex-periences with the external world.
If language were deliberately andconsciously learned, this linguisticawareness would hardly be sur-prising. One would suppose thatdevelopment of such awareness isneeded to learn language, butlanguage seems to be acquiredthroligh maturation. Linguisticawareness seems quite remarkableWhen one considers how littleintrospective awareness we haveof the intermediate stages of otherforms of complex behavior, for ex-ample, walking or seeing. Thespeaker-hearer's linguistic aware-ness is what gives linguistics its
special advantage over other formsof psychological investigation.Taking his informant's awarenessof particular utterances, not atface value but as a point of -de-pafture, the linguist constructs adescription of the informant'sintuitive competence in his lan-guage which would be unattain-able by purely behavioristicmethods.
However, linguistic awareness isfar from being evenly distributedover all phases of linguistic activ-ity. As Klima points out in his con-ference paper, some stages oflinguistic activity are more "acces-sible" than others. Much of theprocess of synthesis takes place
well beyond the range of immedi-ate awareness (Chomsky, 1965)and must be determined inferen-tially. The speaker-hearer is un-aware of the deep structure of ut-teran -.es or of the processes ofspeech perception. He is aware ofphonetic events and easily detectsdeviations, and this awareness canbe increased with proper phonetictraining. At the .morphophonemiclevel, reference to various struc-tural units is possible. Words areperhaps most obvious to thespeaker-hearer, and morphemeshardly less so, at least in highlyinflected languages. Syllables, de-pending on their structural role inthe language, may be more obvi-ous than morphophonemic seg-
ments. In the absence of appropri-ate psycholinguistic data, anyordering of this sort must be verytentative, and in any case it wouldbe a mistake to overstate theclarity of the speaker-hearer'sawareness and the consistencywith which it corresponds to aparticular linguistic level. But itseems safe to say that, by virtueof this awareness, he has aninternal image of the utterance,and this image probably owesmore to the morphophonemic rep-resentation than to any other level.
Linguistic awareness can becomethe basis of various language-based skills. Secret languages,such as Pig Latin (Halle, 1964)
form one class of examples. Insuch languages a further con-straint, in the form of a rule re-lating to the morphophonemicrepresentation, is artifically im-posed upon production and per-ception. If one has synthesized asentence, an additional mentaloperation is required to performthe encipherment; and to carryout the process at a normal speak-ing rate, one has not only to knowthe encipherment rule but to have.developed a certain facility in ap-plying it. A second class of ex-amples are the various systemsof versification. The versifier isskilled in synthesizing sentenceswhich conform not only to therules of the language but also to
an additional set of rules relatingto certain phonetic features(Halle, 1970). To listen to verse,one needs at least a passive formof this skill to distinguish correctfrom incorrect lines without scan-ning them syllable by syllable.Like Pig Latin, versification re-quires awareness of the phoneticsand phonology of the language.
It would appear that there areclear differences between lan-guage-based skills, such as PigLatin and versification, and pri-mary linguistic activity. For onething, there seems to be consider-able individual variation in lin-guistic awareness: some speakersare very conscious of linguistic
patterns and exploit their aware-ness with obvious pleasure in ver-bal play (punning and charades)and verbal work (linguistic andphonetic research). Others seemnever to be aware of much morethan words and are surprisedwhen quite obvious linguistic pat-terns are pointed out to them.This variation contrasts markedlywith the relative uniformity amongdifferent individuals in the primarylinguistic activity. Moreover, if onewere unfamiliar with Pig Latin orwith a system of versification, onemight fail to understand what thePig Latinist or the versifier was upto, but one would not supposeeither of them to be speaking anunfamiliar language. And even
after one catches on to the trick,the sensation of engaging in some-thing beyond primary lingusitic ac-tivity does not disappear; one con-tinues to feel a special demandupon one's linguistic awareness.In short, synthesis of an utterancein primary linguistic activity is onething; the awareness of this proc-ess of synthesis is quite another.
The conclusion suggested here isthat reading is not a primary lin-guistic activity but a secondarylanguage-based skill, and so re-quires a degree of linguistic aware-ness.The form in which a writtensentence presents itself to thereader is determined not by theactual linguistic information to be
conveyed by the sentence but bythe writer's linguistic awarenessof the process of synthesizing thesentence, an awareness which hewishes to impart to the reader.Since the reader has much thesame linguistic awareness as thewriter, and is familiar with the con-ventions of the writing system,he can synthesize something ap-proximating what the writer in-tended, and so understand thesentence.
Since the writing system of Eng-lish is, as has been said, ,essen-tially morphophonemic, the readerprobably forms something like amorphophonemic representation
as he reads, Does he also form aphonetic representation? Thoughit might seem needless to do so insilent reading, there is reason tothink he does, In view of the com-plex interaction that must takeplace in primary linguistic proc-essing, it seems unlikely that thereader could.omit this step at will.Many information-processing ex-periments suggest that words andsentences are stored in phoneticform in short-term memory duringthe mysterious process by whichthe understanding of utterancestakes place. Moreover, eventhough the writing system may heessentially morphophonemic, lin-guistic awareness is in part
phonetic. Thus a sentence whichis phonetically bizarre"The rainin Spain falls mainly in the plain,"for examplewill be spotted bythe reader. Again, many of thosewho manage to read and write or-dinary tee. without "inner speech"or any signs of vocalization haveto mumble their way through nu-merical computations, though thenumerals, unlike alphabetic words,have no overt phonetic structure.Finally, Erickson et al. (in press)have shown that in a test of recallfrom short-term memory, Japa-nese subjects confuse kanjicharacters that are homophones,even though the kanji, like num-
erals, have no overt phoneticstructure.
In conclusion, the question raisedearlier in this pamphlet can bereconsidered. What is required forreading readiness? Apparentlysome degree of linguistic aware-ness, in particular (for English, atleast) awareness of morphophone-mic segments. Two of the confer-ence papers directly support thisview. Shankweiler and I. Y. Liber-man found that a group of poorreaders could often identify thefirst segment of a word likebaeg/ but usually failed to seg-
ment the entire word correctly.Savin reported that his subjects,
poor readers in Philadelphiaschools, could riot master PigLatin and shied away from anyword game involving segmenta-tion, but they were happy enoughin ga'mes where syllable recogni-tion was a sufficient skill. One be-gins to understand why the alpha.bet was invented only once.
Are reading and listening parallelprocesses? Evidently not. Readingappears rather to be parasitical on-spoken language, exploiting thereader's awareness of the contentsof short-term memory. And finally,can the processes of reading andspeech be represented on a singleblock diagram? Not very easily,
because one of the boxes in ablock diagram. of reading mustitself include the kind of partialknowledge of the block diagram oflistening and speaking that hashere been called linguistic aware-ness.
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*U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE .1973 0-503-392