Differences and distinctions between spoken and written language are at the root of many issues and problems in literacy development. First, the transition from a predominantly spoken competence in a language to parallel competence in spoken and written language is a key educational process. Second, judgments of correctness in language are often too closely tied to judgments of correctness in the written form of the language. Third, linguistic descriptions of English as a language and of many other world languages have until very recently been based almost exclusively on written examples.
One consequence of these three not unrelated facts is a certain circularity whereby high cultural and social value is placed on a written version of the language, whereby the term ‘literacy’ is almost synonymous with proficiency in written language and whereby key definitions of what is the standard language, what is correct and proper and even what is grammar are based on what has been described and codified in the written language.