[PS-1.10] Cascading interactive activation between phonemes and letters in the Serbian writing system - a language with two scripts

Styles, S. J. 1 & Kovic, V. 2

1 Nanyang Technological University
2 University of Belgrade

How do cascades of activation flow between letters and phonemes in a language with two discrete, but partially overlapping scripts? In the two scripts of the Serbian writing system (Cyrillic, Latin), both letters and phonemes can be strictly bivalent. Serbian speakers rapidly decided whether picture names began with subsequently presented letters. Both the Serbian Roman and Cyrillic scripts were used in the test, and relationships between letters in the different scripts were carefully controlled. The critical test items were letters which generate no ambiguity ('V' only represents /v/), but whose phonemes are involved in bivalent mappings to ambiguous letters (B= /v/ in Cyrillic; B=/b/ in Roman). These letters could appear as a mismatch to a completely unrelated picture, or as a mismatch to a False Friend e.g., 'bicycle' = /b/= B(Latin), B(Cyrillic) =/v/=V(Latin). We found significant slowdowns in response to letters primed by False Friends, demonstrating that cascades of interactive activation flow between phoneme and letter levels of representation for bivalent items. This unique feature of the Serbian writing system demonstrates that the ambiguity of a particular letter is less important than the specific cascade of activation within the lexical processing system.