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Adult illiterate and semiliterate speakers of Serbo-Croatian were assessed on reading, writing, phonological, and control tasks. Most subjects had acquired measurable literacy skills despite a documented lack of formal instruction. The individual differences in these skills were highly specific. They were related to measures of phoneme segmentation and alphabet knowledge, but only weakly related to general cognitive abilities. Three groups, categorized with respect to the subjects' ability to identify the letters of their Cyrillic alphabet, differed on phoneme deletion and phoneme-counting tasks, but not on syllable-counting, picture vocabulary, or tone-counting tasks. Alphabet knowledge was more tightly coupled with phoneme awareness than has been found in speakers of English. Cross-language similarities and differences are discussed, highlighting the role that phonological transparency of the orthography may play in the acquisition of literacy.
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