The Impact of Native Writing Systems on 2nd Language Reading

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Abstract We looked at the impact that L1 alphabetic verses L1 non-alphabetic languages had on L2 reading. We tested three groups of subjects based on their native language. We had two alphabetic groups, English and Korean, and one non-alphabetic L1 group, Chinese. We also looked at how these groups read nonwords based on their L1. Our preliminary results suggest that the English and Korean native speakers have a paralle phonological and orthographic activation during print reading, while the Chinese have an orthographic threshold they have to meet prior to any phonological activation.


Research question Exp.1 Do word length and bigram frequency have the same effect on word reading in both native and non-native English readers? Does L1 phonological activation style influence these effects in L2 reading? Exp.2 Is the procedure used to read L2 nonwords affected by the L1 writing system (alphabetic vs. nonalphabetic)?

Dependent variables Exp. 1&2 Reaction Time Accuracy


Independent variables Exp.1 Bigram Frequency (high vs. low) Word Length ( 2syl. vs. 3 syl.) Presentation Type (upright vs. Inverted) Exp.2 Exception nonword Regular nonword

Hypotheses Exp.1 Word length and bigram frequency will effect English and Korean L1 readers, but not Chinese L1 readers. All groups will increase in reaction time when words are inverted, but Chinese L1 readers will suffer the greatest delay. Exp.2 English and Korean L1 readers will have longer reaction times for the exception nonwords than the regular nonwords;however reaction times for both types of nonwords will be similar for the Chinese. English and Korean L1 readers will have similiar percent error rates for the regular and exception nonwords, while the Chinese will show greater error rates for the exception nonwords.

Explanation Perfetti et al. (2002) suggested two styles of activation of phonology from print during reading: 1) Cascade (alphabetic) - phonological activation co-occurs with orthographic activation 2) Threshold (non-alphabetic) - phonological activation occurs only after a certain (threshold) level of orthographic activation.

Several studies have shown that L1 reading procedures influence L2 reading procedures (sublexical assembly vs. lexical look-up).

Prior work in our lab has found that reading L2 inverted words has a detrimental effect on L1 Chinese readers of L2 English (Ben-Yehudah & Fiez, 2007).