The proposed research has two aims: It investigates the nature of phonological competence and examines its role in reading skill. To address the nature of phonologicalcompetence, we identify three sets of core phonological preferences that linguisticanalysis suggests are universal.The proposed research examines whether speakers exhibit such preferences, investigates the nature of experience required for their emergence (including the statistical properties of linguistic input and its richness in acoustic and articulatory detail), and tracks their developmental onset in infancy. The second goal of the proposal is to examine the role of phonological competence in reading skill. Although it is well known that reading skilled hinges on phonological processing, the precise role of phonological competence in reading is not well-understood: Is the role of linguistic competence limited to early stage of reading acquisition (i.e., the development of phonemic awareness) or does linguistic competence interacts on-line in the representation of print in skilled reading? To address this question, the proposed research examines whetherthe representation assembled in silent reading is constrained by phonological markedness preferences and compares their structure to the representation of spoken language. The nature of core phonological constraints is a question that is central for linguistictheory and psycholinguistic research. Identifying the scope of core phonological preferences and their learnability from experience informs the study brain plasticity and illuminatesthe heritability of higher-order cognition, issues that are at the forefront of cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychobiology. Although the present research does not specifically address dyslexia, its outcomes are potentially relevant for the diagnosis an understanding of this reading disorder. In view of the high incidence rate of dyslexia in the population, the study of reading skill and reading disabilities also carries direct implications for human health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
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Cooper, Judith
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Florida Atlantic University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Boca Raton
United States
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Berent, Iris (2013) The phonological mind. Trends Cogn Sci 17:319-27
Berent, Iris; Dupuis, Amanda; Brentari, Diane (2013) Amodal aspects of linguistic design. PLoS One 8:e60617
Gervain, Judit; Berent, Iris; Werker, Janet F (2012) Binding at birth: the newborn brain detects identity relations and sequential position in speech. J Cogn Neurosci 24:564-74
Berent, Iris; Lennertz, Tracy; Balaban, Evan (2012) Language universals and misidentification: a two-way street. Lang Speech 55:311-30
Berent, Iris; Wilson, Colin; Marcus, Gary et al. (2012) On the role of variables in phonology: Remarks on Hayes and Wilson (2008). Linguist Inq 43:97-119
Berent, Iris; Vaknin-Nusbaum, Vered; Balaban, Evan et al. (2012) Dyslexia impairs speech recognition but can spare phonological competence. PLoS One 7:e44875
Berent, Iris; Balaban, Evan; Vaknin-Nusbaum, Vered (2011) How linguistic chickens help spot spoken-eggs: phonological constraints on speech identification. Front Psychol 2:182
Berent, Iris; Harder, Katherine; Lennertz, Tracy (2011) Phonological universals in early childhood: Evidence from sonority restrictions. Lang Acquis 18:281-293
Marom, Michal; Berent, Iris (2010) Phonological constraints on the assembly of skeletal structure in reading. J Psycholinguist Res 39:67-88
Berent, Iris; Lennertz, Tracy (2010) Universal constraints on the sound structure of language: phonological or acoustic? J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 36:212-23

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