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Word reading skill predicts anticipation of upcoming spoken language input: A study of children developing proficiency in reading

Mani, N., & Huettig, F. (2014). Word reading skill predicts anticipation of upcoming spoken language input: A study of children developing proficiency in reading. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 126, 264-279. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2014.05.004.
Despite the efficiency with which language users typically process spoken language, a growing body of research finds substantial individual differences in both the speed and accuracy of spoken language processing potentially attributable to participants’ literacy skills. Against this background, the current study takes a look at the role of word reading skill in listener’s anticipation of upcoming spoken language input in children at the cusp of learning to read: if reading skills impact predictive language processing, then children at this stage of literacy acquisition should be most susceptible to the effects of reading skills on spoken language processing. We tested 8-year-old children on their prediction of upcoming spoken language input in an eye-tracking task. While children, like in previous studies to-date, were successfully able to anticipate upcoming spoken language input, there was a strong positive correlation between children’s word reading (but not their pseudo-word reading and meta-phonological awareness or their spoken word recognition) skills and their prediction skills. We suggest that these findings are most compatible with the notion that the process of learning orthographic representations during reading acquisition sharpens pre-existing lexical representations which in turn also supports anticipation of upcoming spoken words.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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