Zeguers, M. , Snellings, P. , Huizenga, H. & van der Molen, M.
University of Amsterdam, department of Developmental Psychology
The ability to quickly integrate orthographic and phonological codes is crucial for the development of reading proficiency. The exact nature of this integration process is assumed to depend on characteristics of the language concerned. Research on the time course of orthography-phonology integration during proficient visual word recognition in different languages may enhance our understanding of both skilled reading and reading deficits such as dyslexia. In opaque orthographies, activation of orthographic and phonological codes have been shown to follow distinct time courses. However, it is unclear how orthography and phonology are accessed in more transparent orthographies. Therefore, we used masked priming in a lexical decision task to identify the time course of orthographic and phonological priming effects in the transparent Dutch orthography. Results showed strong and early appearing orthographic priming effects, yet no additional phonological priming. We suggested that the strong interconnectivity between phonology and orthography in the transparent Dutch orthography had resulted in intertwined orthographic and phonological influences from the orthographic prime, leaving little room for additional effects of the phonological prime. To test this, we conducted a second experiment and systematically compared phonological priming effects between primes with high and low orthographic similarity with the target. We replicated the finding from the first experiment: the orthographically similar phonological primes provided no additional facilitation compared to orthographic primes. In contrast, for targets with orthographically dissimilar phonological primes, phonological priming effects appeared early in the word recognition process, yet lagged slightly behind the effects of orthographic primes. This indicates that readers of a transparent orthography can access phonological codes automatically and independently from orthographic codes. However, the strong interconnectivity between phonology and orthography in transparent orthographies results in intertwined orthographic and phonological influences when readers read the words with consistent grapheme-phoneme correspondences that are typical in their language.