The effect of orthographic systems on the developing reading system: Typological and computational analyses
Smith, A. C., Monaghan, P., & Huettig, F.
The effect of orthographic systems on the developing reading system: Typological and computational analyses. Psychological Review
Orthographic systems vary dramatically in the extent to which they encode a language’s phonological and lexico-semantic structure. Studies of the effects of orthographic transparency suggest that such variation is likely to have major implications for how the reading system operates. However, such studies have been unable to examine in isolation the contributory effect of transparency on reading due to co-varying linguistic or socio-cultural factors. We first investigated the phonological properties of languages using the range of the world’s orthographic systems (alphabetic; alphasyllabic; consonantal; syllabic; logographic), and found that, once geographical proximity is taken into account, phonological properties do not relate to orthographic system. We then explored the processing implications of orthographic variation by training a connectionist implementation of the triangle model of reading on the range of orthographic systems whilst controlling for phonological and semantic structure. We show that the triangle model is effective as a universal model of reading, able to replicate key behavioural and neuroscientific results. Importantly, the model also generates new predictions deriving from an explicit description of the effects of orthographic transparency on how reading is realised and defines the consequences of orthographic systems on reading processes.