Processing of Orthographic Structure by Adults of Different Reading Ability

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The research presented here examines the proposal that orthographic processing in reading polysyllabic words takes place via an analysis of the word into an orthographic/morphological structure called the Basic Orthographic Syllabic Structure or BOSS. This structure includes the largest possible coda in the first component (e.g., the THUND of THUNDER) and, as such, it cuts across the phonological syllable boundary (e.g., THUN + DER). The existence of the BOSS has been previously supported by showing that words physically divided at their BOSS (e.g., THUNDER) are faster to recognize than those divided at their syllable (e.g., THUNDER). However, there has been little, if any, report of confirmatory evidence for this conclusion. Three experiments are reported here demonstrating that whether the BOSS division is faster than the syllable division depends crucially on the reading ability of the participants. Better adult reading, independently measured in terms of comprehension, is associated with a preference for the BOSS division while poorer adult reading is more associated with a syllable preference. Such a result potentially explains the conflicting findings that have been previously reported. A number of different explanations are offered for the pattern of results, with the suggestion that poorer adult reading is more oriented toward the pronunciation of the word than is better reading.
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Taft, Marcus
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Journal Article
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UNSW Faculty