With the National Science Foundation support, Ms. Mona Roxana Botezatu will collect data for her doctoral dissertation under the direction of Drs. Carol Miller and Maya Misra. This research will evaluate how differences in letter-sound mapping between a bilingual's first and second languages impact reading in the second language. Past research suggests that word reading skills transfer across writing systems and that bilinguals experience competition between their two print-sound systems. Languages that share a script, such as English and Spanish, differ in their spelling-sound consistency, or the number of pronunciations available for given letter clusters (e.g., consistent: the "-air" in hair, pair; inconsistent: the "-ost" in most, cost). These differences have been shown to affect word-reading strategies. The present research investigates transfer of word-reading strategies in bilinguals who read a second language that differs in spelling-sound consistency from their first language. In a series of five experiments, this issue will be examined by comparing performance across native English speakers and Spanish-English, Dutch-English and Chinese-English bilinguals on an English visual rhyme judgment task. The task requires individuals to make rhyme judgments of visually presented word pairs, while the spelling-sound consistency of the stimuli is varied systematically. To test whether word-reading strategies transfer more robustly when both languages are used within a single task, Dutch-English bilinguals will also be tested on a Dutch-English rhyme judgment task. The goal of this research is to provide converging evidence using behavioral and neurocognitive methods (event-related potentials) to better understand the consequences of native language reading strategy for skilled reading in English. Results will provide critical implications for adapting current models of single word reading to the bilingual lexicon and will ultimately inform literacy instruction practices targeting English language learners.

Project Report

The research project evaluated how differences in letter-sound mapping between bilinguals’ first and second languages impact reading in the second language. Past research suggests that word reading skills transfer across writing systems and that bilinguals experience competition between their two print-sound systems. Languages that share a script, such as English and Spanish, differ in their spelling-sound consistency, or the number of pronunciations available for given letter clusters (e.g., consistent: the "-air" in hair, pair; inconsistent: the "-ost" in most, cost). These differences have been shown to affect word-reading strategies. The present research investigated transfer of word-reading strategies in bilinguals who read a second language that differed in spelling-sound consistency from their first language. In a series of four experiments, this issue was examined by comparing performance across native English speakers and Spanish-English, Dutch-English and Chinese-English bilinguals on an English visual rhyme judgment task while behavioral and EEG measures were recorded. The task asked participants to make rhyme judgments of visually presented, semantically unrelated word pairs, while the spelling-sound consistency and orthographic similarity of the word pairs were varied systematically. The effect of consistency was evaluated by comparing orthographically dissimilar word pairs that matched or mismatched in consistency within rhyming (consistent/consistent: WHITE-FIGHT versus inconsistent/consistent: HEIGHT-FIGHT) and non-rhyming conditions (inconsistent/inconsistent: CHILD-COUGH versus consistent/inconsistent: CHURCH-COUGH). The effect of orthography was evaluated by comparing word pairs that matched in consistency, but differed in orthographic similarity within rhyming (orthographically similar: RIGHT-FIGHT versus orthographically dissimilar: WHITE-FIGHT) and non-rhyming conditions (orthographically similar: DOUGH-COUGH versus orthographically dissimilar: CHILD-COUGH). All participant groups were facilitated in responding to rhyming relative to non-rhyming conditions. In processing consistency, all participant groups were facilitated by consistency congruent (WHITE-FIGHT) relative to incongruent (HEIGHT-FIGHT) word pairs in making rhyming decisions. In making non-rhyming decisions, English monolinguals were facilitated by consistency congruent (CHILD-COUGH) relative to incongruent (CHURCH-COUGH) conditions, whereas Spanish-English and Chinese-English bilinguals showed the opposite direction of the effect and Dutch-English bilinguals did not show an effect. In processing orthographic similarity, all participant groups were facilitated by convergent orthographic and phonological cues (RIGHT-FIGHT) in making rhyme decisions, but inhibited by divergent orthographic and phonological cues (DOUGH-COUGH) in making non-rhyme decisions. Overall, EEG measures revealed processing of spelling-sound consistency not evident in the behavioral data, whereas both behavioral and EEG measures provided convergent evidence for bilinguals’ processing of orthographic similarity. To test whether word-reading strategies transfer more robustly when both languages are used within a single task, a second group of Dutch-English bilinguals was tested on a Dutch-English rhyme judgment task. The task asked participants to make rhyme judgments of visually presented, semantically unrelated Dutch-English word pairs, while behavioral and EEG measures were recorded. The spelling-sound consistency of the English words was varied systematically within both rhyming (consistent target: kreet [kre?t] – trait versus inconsistent target: kreet [kre?t] – weight) and non-rhyming conditions (consistent target: kreet [kre?t] – dark versus inconsistent target: kreet [kre?t] – tear). Dutch-English bilinguals were facilitated in responding to rhyming conditions that contained consistent (kreet [kre?t] – trait) relative to inconsistent English words (kreet [kre?t] – weight), as well as in responding to non-rhyming conditions that contained inconsistent (kreet [kre?t] – tear) relative to consistent English words (kreet [kre?t] – dark). Across the five experiments conducted for this project, results suggested that bilinguals’ transfer of spelling-sound consistency expectations from the first to the second language was modulated by the orthographic distance between the two languages. Specifically, bilinguals whose first and second language orthographies shared the same alphabetic script (i.e., Spanish-English and Dutch-English bilinguals) were more likely to transfer reading strategies from the first to the second language, regardless of language immersion and task-specific context, relative to bilinguals whose two languages used different scripts (i.e., Chinese-English bilinguals). Nonetheless, bilinguals whose two languages used different scripts relied upon the degree of consistency encountered in their first language orthography as a reference point for judging the degree of spelling-sound consistency found in their second language (i.e., English). Overall, the results suggest that bilinguals who have maintained dominance in their first language approach reading a second language orthography with an expectation of consistent letter-sound mappings. This finding suggests that bilinguals’ language dominance and the distance between their two orthographies should be taken into account in adapting current models of single word reading to the bilingual lexicon. Furthermore, the results may inform literacy instruction targeting bilinguals learning to read English. Specifically, the knowledge that bilinguals initially approach reading in the second language with an expectation of consistent spelling-sound mappings could aid educators in determining which teaching strategies may help bilinguals gauge the right degree of consistency found in English spelling-sound mappings.

Agency
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Institute
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
Type
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
1052926
Program Officer
William J. Badecker
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-05-01
Budget End
2013-04-30
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2010
Total Cost
$11,970
Indirect Cost
Name
Pennsylvania State University
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
University Park
State
PA
Country
United States
Zip Code
16802