Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 September 2008
The game of ‘talking backward’, invented independently by two boys aged 8; 10 and 9; 11, is studied with reference to the role of speech play in linguistic, cognitive, and social development. Case reports from 27 adult backward talkers suggest a lower limit of about 7 years for the onset of this ability. The backward speech of the two children illustrates how either phonology or orthography can be used as a basis for backward speech, and demonstrates the boys' knowledge of phonemic units and letter-to-sound correspondences. Talking backward belongs to a larger class of ‘secret’ language games that may be cognitively and pragmatically well suited to children of this age.
Address for correspondence: Dr Lewis A. Leavitt, 553 Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Madison, WI 53706, U.S.A.
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