Decoding and Deciphering

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Elizabeth
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Decoding and Deciphering

Post by Elizabeth » Sun Dec 02, 2012 9:44 am

Do we all mean the same thing when we talk about “decoding”? Recently, I read about a distinction between “decoding” and “deciphering” and it made sense to me.

For the past year, when I have been talking about the Simple View, I have been explaining that decoding simply means changing the squiggles you see into words that can be heard, however you do it. So that includes changing the squiggles into words by any method. I use as an example the word "simple" (because it happens to be on the Power Point slide) and say, "if you can see it and say 'simple' you have decoded it, whether you have said 's..i..m..pul ... simple' or just 'simple'.” So it's decoding, whether you use phonics (sounding and blending), or use automatic recognition underpinned by phonics, or memorise the shape of the whole word without using phonics.

In contrast, “deciphering” appears to be used by some as one way of “decoding”, seeing an unfamiliar word and using phonics to decode it. To me, that's logical.


I am convinced that the most effective way to learn to decode is to learn to use phonics (knowledge of the alphabetic code and the skill of blending sounds) so that even automatic word recognition is underpinned by an understanding of the phonics involved.
Elizabeth

Lesley Drake
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Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by Lesley Drake » Sun Dec 02, 2012 1:36 pm

"memorise the shape of the whole word without using phonics"

If you don't attend to what the word is made up of, you are not decoding.

Elizabeth
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Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by Elizabeth » Sun Dec 02, 2012 3:58 pm

According to my Oxford English Reference Dictionary, decode means "convert a (coded) message into intelligible language".
Elizabeth

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Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by Elizabeth » Sun Dec 02, 2012 4:05 pm

I am not suggesting we start using the word, "deciphering" when we're talking about teaching children to decode words.
Elizabeth

Lesley Drake
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Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by Lesley Drake » Sun Dec 02, 2012 4:13 pm

"According to my Oxford English Reference Dictionary, decode means "convert a (coded) message into intelligible language".

But if you don't attend to the code the word is made up of, you are not processing it as a code and therefore are not decoding it.

I think this is what the OED definition is saying, the key word being "convert."

Toots

Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by Toots » Sun Dec 02, 2012 4:34 pm

Reading converts written into spoken language whether or not it is done with attention to the phonic 'code' or not. Every written word is code for a spoken word.

In discussions of reading SP has appropriated the word 'decoding' to itself but perhaps should really qualify it by saying SP decoding, for clarity.

elsiep
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Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by elsiep » Sun Dec 02, 2012 4:50 pm

Deciphering and decoding have more or less identical meanings. I wouldn't agree that a whole written word is 'code' for a whole spoken word unless you extend the meaning of 'code' beyond its usual boundaries - because the written words aren't unique and they can be decomposed into smaller units that form part of other words.

If you read using whole word recognition, you are essentially recognising an iconic symbol for a word, in the same way as you might recognise a trade mark.

Classic case; Monsieur C, a patient of the neurologist Joseph Dejerine, Paris, 1880s. After a stroke, M. C was able to copy, but not read letters, but he could read familiar proper names, like those of popular newspapers or on signs.

Two different mechanisms in different parts of the brain; the icon recognition in the right visual area, and language processing in the left frontal/temporal - although they do, as Elizabeth points out, overlap in reading - sometimes decoding and whole word recognition occur together.

elsie

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Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by Lesley Drake » Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:01 pm

"Every written word is code for a spoken word."

No it isn't.

Every written word is representing all the individual sounds which make up the spoken word.

Toots

Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by Toots » Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:11 pm

I wouldn't agree. I can't see the relevance of words being able to be broken down into parts that might appear in other words. Every written word is unique except in the case of homographs. In contrast, the units of the alphabetic code can stand for multiple sounds, making the alphabet code a lot more complex and unreliable than the code of written word/ spoken word correspondence, the main problem of which (for reading instruction)seems to be that it constitutes a very large, ungainly body of knowledge.

Words are symbols, letters are symbols, graphemes are symbols. Symbols are commonplace material for codes.

Whole word recognition does not depend on the word always looking exactly the same. It can be in capital letters, lower case, various fonts and still recognised. In contrast, the recognition of trademarks which is often found in children before they can read is dependent on the format in which the word is written, such as the block capitals ASDA.

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palisadesk
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Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by palisadesk » Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:18 pm

Unfortunately -- pace the Oxford Reference Dictionary -- the word "decoding," as commonly used in reading-related publications, education and pedagogical works and even in many assessment instruments, no longer means "using the alphabetic code to identify a word." It simply means recognizing a printed word -- by whatever means -- and pronouncing it correctly.

We can insist that "decoding" should mean using the code to access the word -- and we certainly are fundamentally and etymologically correct in doing so -- but usage has passed us by. Perhaps the new usage is not yet so common in the UK as it is in North America and elsewhere, but if we use the term decoding (except among ourselves) in its traditional sense, we run a serious risk of being misunderstood -- and if we assume others are using it in "our" sense we are almost certainly misunderstanding them.

I have made it a habit, when discussing "decoding" in more general venues, to define the term at the same time, to remove the possibility that "decoding" will be conflated with "word recognition." Other terms that can be used which do not lend themselves to misunderstanding are "phonological recoding" (a term used in research and assessment), "phonemic decoding," "decoding via the alphabetic code," and so on.

We can deplore this regrettable change in word usage, but we ignore the reality of it at our peril. I don't think, however, that "decipher" is a better term. Debbie's practice of referring to "decoding all-through-the-written-word" -- which implies l-r grapheme-phoneme conversion -- is a good model IMO, although more recondite terms can be used in scholarly contexts.

Susan S.

Toots

Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by Toots » Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:49 pm

I think you will find the usual meaning of 'decoding' pre-dates decoding as 'decoding all through the written word'. :smile:

I have come across it a fair amount in my life, which certainly means its been around longer than formalised synthetic phonics.

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maizie
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Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by maizie » Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:55 pm

Toots wrote:I have come across it a fair amount in my life, which certainly means its been around longer than formalised synthetic phonics.
First mention of 'synthetic phonics' I have found is in the late 19th century, toots. Or should I call you Methuselah?

Toots

Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by Toots » Sun Dec 02, 2012 6:09 pm

Feel I'm getting close to that.

Ummm. That's why I said 'formalised synthetic phonics'. I hoped you'd understand I meant its present incarnation and popularity in the UK. But I'm willing to eat my words if in the late 19th century they talked about decoding as synonymous with all through the word decoding.

Lesley Drake
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Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by Lesley Drake » Sun Dec 02, 2012 7:30 pm

Where has all this nonsense come from?

We have NEVER had any problems on this message board and in the RRF when talking about decoding in understanding what is meant by it.

If children stare at a word in order to recognise it they are using whole language.

If they look at the graphemes l to r, activating the sounds represented by them and blend the sounds together, they are decoding.

This whole discussion is a waste of brain space in the great order of things. I speak as a class teacher with better things to worry about!

Toots

Re: Decoding and Deciphering

Post by Toots » Sun Dec 02, 2012 9:19 pm

OK. So if they look at a whole word and say it they are not decoding it. What exactly are they doing then? Saying they are 'using whole language' hardly describes the event which results in their knowing what it says, does it?

I'm at a loss. Perhaps we'll have to invent a new word so that the RRF forum regulars can still use 'decoding' in their special way.

:neutral:

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