Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development

Psycholinguistic Influences on Handwriting Speed

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  • Even at degree level, academic achievement is closely associated with writing speed. Handwriting is a complex skill, with motor, psycholinguistic and cognitive components, and achievement of fluency is dependent on practice. It is assumed in the National Curriculum that handwriting is automatic by the time that children finish Year 4 (8 – 9 years). There is frequently no further teaching or practice of handwriting after this time, although handwriting of many pupils is not automated until well into secondary education.

    There has been little research on motor and psycholinguistic factors associated with handwriting fluency. Although some studies have investigated the amount of time that children spend writing, there has been no research on the number of words actually written over an extended period. Some theories of writing entirely disregard handwriting and Van Galen’s influential model of writing omits larger sub-lexical fragments. Whilst there have been a few investigations at a syllabic level, these have been in syllable-timed languages. English is a stress-timed language and units such as morphemes and rimes may be of more significance than syllables in writing in English.

    Annabel Molyneaux's project on psycholinguistic influences on handwriting speed aims firstly to look for associations between school/ teacher/pupil variables and handwriting speed, and secondly where pauses occur during handwriting. During phase one the number of words written by Year 5 children in a typical school week will be measured and a word-frequency list compiled. Phase two will be experimental, using words drawn from the word-frequency list. A digital writing tablet will be used to measure pause-times in various writing tasks in order to identify which sub-lexical fragments are of importance in writing in English.