What is Basic Code?

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Susan Godsland
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What is Basic Code?

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Jun 23, 2006 1:43 pm

Jenny Chew posted this message on Fri Jun 23, 2006 on the 'Reading age and spelling age tests' string.

Dick -

Thanks for explaining. Your point 2., though, raises further problems - your figure of 30 for the 'basic code' is different from any other that I know. The big divide usually comes between people who regard the 'basic code' as consisting only of phonemes which can be represented by single letters and those who regard it as consisting of one spelling for each phoneme in English. Your version falls between the two.

The former people come up with figures of 23-25 for the 'basic code': 25 if their only subtraction from 26 results from the fact that 'c' and 'k' both represent the same sound, 24 if they exclude 'q' because it always appears with 'u' and is therefore arguably a digraph rather than a single letter, and 23 if they are purist about 'x', which, although it's a single letter, stands for /ks/ in beginners' words and the sounds /k/ and /s/ are already covered by other letters.

The people who regard the 'basic code' as consisting of one spelling for each phoneme in English usually come up with a figure of 40-ish. Diane McG lists 42 in the UK edition of 'Why Children Can't Read', but she includes /kw/ for 'qu' and /ks/ for 'x', which are not single phonemes, and she counts the sounds represented by 'aw' and 'or' as different, whereas they are the same in British Received Pronunciation ('nor' and 'gnaw' are pronounced identically) - so her 'basic code' covers only 39 phonemes. She, like 'Jolly Phonics', omits the following: schwa, /zh/ (middle sound in 'vision'), the diphthong that British RP has in 'moor' (and which I heard a TV reporter using in 'mourn' last night), and the phonemes /air/ and /ear/ (both diphthongs), which are definitely part of British RP. I can see very good reasons for omitting at least the first 3 where beginners are concerned but it does mean that all phonemes are not covered in these versions of the 'basic code'.

Your figure of 30 isn't based either on the number of single letters representing single phonemes or on the total number of phonemes. I think there are legitimate reasons for differences between what different people regard as the 'basic code', but it does make for confusion when the term 'basic code' is used in discusson as if it meant the same thing to everyone.

Jenny.

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