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Why is "phono" everywhere in the science of reading?

In Ant-Man II, after being inundated by a series of conversations beginning with the term quantum, Ant-Man exclaims: “Is this a thing?” In other words, why are you guys always using the term quantum? Those new to the science of reading might ask the same questions when facing the deluge of terms that begin with “phono or phon,” such as phonemes, phonetics, phonology, phonological, or phonotactics. “Is this a thing? Why is “phono” everywhere and attached to everything?"

 “Phono” is not only a thing; it’s the thing. “Phone” is a Greek word element that refers to sound. So, think of sound anytime you see “phono” before any word. For example, “phonology” refers to studying the sound structure of oral language. When you hear phonics, think of a system for decoding new words by matching letters to the sounds they represent. When you hear the term phonological, think of sound awareness. Phonological awareness is simply helping kids become conscious of the sound structure of their language. And phonotactics (my favorite) refers to the rules or limitations that determine how to sounds can be combined in words. For example, in English, “bl” is permissible at the beginning of syllables but not at the end. 

Well, there it is: the common denominator with any word containing “phono” is sound. So, pick up your smartphone in class and whisper incredulously to your students: “Wow, I’m about to use a device named after the Greek word for sound!”


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