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A phoneme effect in visual word recognition

Authors
Journal
Cognition
0010-0277
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
68
Issue
3
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/s0010-0277(98)00051-1
Keywords
  • Visual Word Recognition
  • Phonology
  • Reading Units
  • Graphemes
Disciplines
  • Linguistics

Abstract

Abstract In alphabetic writing systems like English or French, many words are composed of more letters than phonemes (e.g. BEACH is composed of five letters and three phonemes, i.e. /biJ/). This is due to the presence of higher order graphemes, that is, groups of letters that map into a single phoneme (e.g. EA and CH in BEACH map into the single phonemes /i/ and /J/, respectively). The present study investigated the potential role of these subsyllabic components for the visual recognition of words in a perceptual identification task. In Experiment 1, we manipulated the number of phonemes in monosyllabic, low frequency, five-letter, English words, and found that identification times were longer for words with a small number of phonemes than for words with a large number of phonemes. In Experiment 2, this `phoneme effect' was replicated in French for low frequency, but not for high frequency, monosyllabic words. These results suggest that subsyllabic components, also referred to as functional orthographic units, play a crucial role as elementary building blocks of visual word recognition.

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