Expeditions and Discoveries: Sponsored Exploration and Scientific Discovery in the Modern Age Harvard Libraries Expeditions Home Image Info

The Science of Reading

image Huey, Edmund Burke. The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading: With a Review of the History of Reading and Writing and of Methods, Texts, and Hygiene in Reading. New York, Macmillan, 1922.

Reading alphabetic text is a complex cognitive and interpretive activity. It began to develop after Greeks modified the Phoenician alphabet to create their own 24-letter system of consonants and vowels to represent every sound in their language. Readers use a variety of strategies to assist them to decode written or printed symbols that represent speech sounds.

The modern interdisciplinary discipline of psycholinguistics (the psychology of language acquisition) combines biology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and information theory. Subfields of psycholinguistics include phonetics and phonology—the association of the sounds of spoken words with their printed forms; morphology—the study of word structures; syntax—the study of patterns of word combinations in forming meaningful sentences; and pragmatics—the extraction of meaning from contextual information. These studies aim to clarify the cognitive processes that enable readers to discern meaning from sentences composed of learned vocabulary and grammatical structure.

Selections from Harvard

Published Materials

Works from the late 18th and early 19th centuries based on studies of the physiology and psychology of reading were digitized from collections in the Monroe C. Gutman Library and the Harry Elkins Widener Library.

Browse texts:

Science of reading