Call: Beyond Letters

Call for Papers

Beyond Letters: Perspectives on the Effects of Illiteracy from Linguistics and Beyond

We are pleased to announce the Call for Papers for the upcoming edited special issue in the journal Cadernos de Linguistica published by the Brazilian Linguistics Association (Abralin) with the following title: Beyond Letters: Perspectives on the Effects of Illiteracy from Linguistics and Beyond. We invite you to contribute to this volume and share your research findings and insights in the field of illiteracy and linguistics.

Illiteracy's theoretical interest in both WEIRD and non-WEIRD populations has led to research exploring the cognitive effects of literacy acquisition, including working memory and phonological perception changes. However, limited research exists on how literacy acquisition affects linguistic knowledge of syntax. Recent evidence reveals distinctions between spoken and written language, with written language displaying greater complexity.

Contrary to previous assumptions, studies show that native speakers of a language do not necessarily converge on the same grammar. This special issue aims to explore how literacy acquisition influences the mental representation of linguistic constructions and highlights the profound linguistic impact on speakers of languages with writing systems. The practical importance lies in raising awareness of literacy effects, evaluating illiteracy education critically, and encouraging reevaluation of existing theories. Additionally, the issue addresses the lack of attention to literacy in (psycho)linguistic research and challenges the convergence hypothesis. Studies with illiterates reveal significant individual differences in L1 grammatical knowledge, questioning how we define the native speaker and why the focus often centers on WEIRD conceptualizations. These findings have implications for both L1 and L2 education.

This issue will bring together researchers who work on the effects of literacy and illiterate populations with regard to how literacy (acquisition of it or print exposure) influences linguistic knowledge and how it leads to individual differences especially in domains of syntax or lexicogrammar both in L1 and L2 learning in low-literate and illiterate. Additionally, the issue will focus on teaching literacy (what methods are useful in dealing with learners’ anxiety, how we can develop or improve teaching materials that are more useful for both educators and learners, etc.). Finally, the experiences of illiterates as they acquire literacy (i.e., phenomenological studies), and discussions and research reports on these issues are also welcome.

We seek to bring together researchers from various stages in their careers and their original work or replication studies on the following aspects:

  1. The influence of literacy (acquisition or print exposure) on mental representations of syntax/lexicogrammar in L1 or L2 speakers and the resulting individual differences in linguistic knowledge.
  2. Effective methods for teaching literacy, including strategies to address anxiety, approaches to teaching writing systems, and other pertinent considerations.
  3. Phenomenological studies exploring the experiences of illiterate individuals as they navigate the process of acquiring literacy.

Eligibility Criteria:

We welcome submissions from scholars, researchers, students, and practitioners in the fields of linguistics, literacy studies, education, and related disciplines. To ensure that the contributions align with the focus of our special journal issue we have outlined the following eligibility criteria:

  1. Relevance to the Theme: Manuscripts should explore the effects of illiteracy or literacy acquisition, addressing how these influence linguistic competence and individual differences in linguistic knowledge (i.e., syntax or lexicogrammar) in both L1 and L2 learning. Submissions may also focus on effective methods for teaching literacy, experiences of illiterates as they acquire literacy, or phenomenological studies related to illiteracy.
  2. Originality and Unpublished Work: We only accept original and previously unpublished work. Submissions should not have been previously published in any journal or conference proceedings, nor should they be under consideration for publication elsewhere during the review process.
  3. Formatting and Citation Style: All manuscripts must adhere to the formatting guidelines set forth by Cadernos de Linguística. Authors are required to follow the specified word limit and include accurate and consistent citations for all referenced sources. Please follow the unified style sheet for linguistics for citations. Please see general information here.
  4. Ethical Considerations: For studies involving illiterate individuals, authors must ensure that they adhere to ethical guidelines and obtain appropriate informed consent from participants. The ethical treatment of subjects and confidentiality of personal data should be carefully addressed.
  5. Academic Rigor: Submissions should demonstrate academic rigor, whether through empirical research, theoretical analyses, or practical applications. We encourage submissions that provide robust evidence and offer new insights into the effects of illiteracy and literacy acquisition on language learning and linguistic competence.
  6. Language: Manuscripts may be submitted in English and follow US or UK English throughout.
  7. Open Science: As part of the open science initiative, all data, codes or materials used need to be publicly available in a data repository (i.e., OSF).

Important Dates:

  • Abstract submission deadline: October 1, 2023
  • Abstract Decisions: October 15, 2023
  • Manuscript submission deadline: February 1, 2024
  • Review and revision period: March-May 2024

Abstract Submission Guidelines:

Please submit an abstract (200-250 words) outlining the aim of the text with relevant information on background and methodology and how this submission would align with the special issue, as well as a provisional title. The abstract submission can be done at the following link:

Manuscript Submission Guidelines:

We welcome original, unpublished research contributions related to the themes of illiteracy as outlined earlier in this CfP. Manuscripts should adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Manuscripts should be submitted as .docx or .odt
  • The length of the manuscript should be within 4000-5000 words for research articles (see topic 1), for topics 2 and 3, the expected length is 2000-3000, exclusive of bibliography words.
  • Follow the Cadernos de Linguística formatting and the unified style sheet for linguistics.
  • The manuscript should have an abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, analysis, results & discussion and a conclusion. For different submission formats please liaise with the editors.
  • An ORCID for all the authors.

Review Process:

All submissions will undergo internal and external peer-review. Our aim is to provide constructive feedback and support to authors throughout the review process.

Publication Fees:

Cadernos de Linguística does not charge any publication fees for accepted manuscripts in the special issue "Beyond Letters: Perspectives on the Effects of Illiteracy from Linguistics and Beyond." We are committed to promoting open access to research and ensuring that authors can disseminate their work freely. All articles published in Cadernos de Linguística are accessible with open science to readers worldwide, fostering knowledge sharing and global engagement without financial barriers for authors.   Contact Information:   For any inquiries regarding this special journal issue or the submission process, please feel free to contact us at (Tan Gedik, PhD Researcher, FAU); (Leonarda Prela, PhD Researcher, FAU); (Vania De la Garza, PhD Researcher, FAU)


We look forward to receiving your valuable contributions.

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