The influence of the phonological characteristics of a language on the functional units of reading: a study in French

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Taft (1992) reported results supporting the idea that the "Body of the BOSS" (BOB) is an important unit in the visual recognition of English polysyllabic words. "BOSS" refers to the orthographically-defined first syllable of a word (e.g., the lam of lament); "Body" refers to the part of that syllable which follows the initial consonant(s) (e.g., the am of lam). The primary evidence supporting this notion was that the pronunciation of an ambiguously pronounceable nonword could be biased by the pronunciation of a preceding word when they shared their BOB, but not when they shared their phonologically-defined first syllable. Three experiments were conducted in French, to examine whether the syllable dominates as a unit of orthographic representation when the language has a clear phonological syllable structure. To construct ambiguously pronounceable nonwords, upper case letters were used and the first syllable always contained an E, which could be pronounced either as é or e. Nonwords (e.g., MERANE) were preceded by an upper case version of a word sharing a BOB (e.g., feroce) or a first syllable (e.g., méduse). The pronunciation of the nonword's E was biased by the syllable and not by the BOB, implying that the syllable, but not the BOB, is a relevant structure in the processing of visually presented French words.
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Taft, Marcus
Radeau, M
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UNSW Faculty