This application aims to acquire evidence on the role of word knowledge in comprehension skill.
Its research aims to identify two components of the word knowledge -comprehension link: (1) the consequences of word knowledge for children's and adults'comprehension processes and, more specifically, the ability to integrate word meanings in text comprehension. (2) How children and adults learn the meanings of new words during reading and how this learning is affected by their comprehension skill. In pursuing these two aims, the project addresses how the relationship between word knowledge (and word learning) and comprehension change across schooling. Its hypothesis is that, despite the skill development that occurs across ages, the general relationship among word knowledge, new word learning, and comprehension is unchanging from middle school to young adulthood. The research methods for these aims require fine-grain measures taken during word-by-word reading and word learning. For this purpose, much of the research used event related potentials (ERPs) measures, which are voltage shifts measure on the scalp surface in response to specific experimental events. For example, ERPs taken during text reading reveal voltage shifts that indicate how readily the reader is able to integrate the meaning of the word with the prior text. This indicator, furthermore, appears more robustly for readers of high comprehension skill than for readers of low comprehension skill. As a second example, ERP measures can produce indicators of new word learning. After learning the meaning of a new word, ERPs recorded when the new word is viewed show specific markers of the learning experience and of the use of the newly learned meaning in a meaning judgment task. Further, the robustness of the learning signal produced by the new word is related to the comprehension skill of the reader. The research takes advantage of these observations in a series of studies with both children and adults, whose word knowledge and comprehension skill are assessed and related to outcomes of the experiments. The studies are designed to gain important results that will increase understanding of how individual skill is related to processes of word-by-word comprehension and the ability to learn the meanings of new words through reading. The work of the project has implications for the broad health-related goals of NIH, especially in contributing to research on the psychological, language and educational development of children.

Public Health Relevance

This project will obtain important scientific information on children's and adults'reading comprehension, especially the importance of word knowledge and learning new words as components of reading skill. The work of the project has implications for the broad health-related goals of NIH, especially in contributing to research on the psychological, language and educational development of children.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Application #
Study Section
Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
Program Officer
Miller, Brett
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University of Pittsburgh
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Yang, Chin Lung; Perfetti, Charles A; Tan, Li-Hai et al. (2018) ERP indicators of L2 proficiency in word-to-text integration processes. Neuropsychologia 117:287-301
Chen, Lin; Fang, Xiaoping; Perfetti, Charles A (2017) Word-to-text integration: ERP evidence for semantic and orthographic effects in Chinese. J Neurolinguistics 42:83-92
Fang, Xiaoping; Perfetti, Charles; Stafura, Joseph (2017) Learning new meanings for known words: Biphasic effects of prior knowledge. Lang Cogn Neurosci 32:637-649
Harris, Lindsay N; Perfetti, Charles (2017) Individual Differences in Phonological Feedback Effects: Evidence for the Orthographic Recoding Hypothesis of Orthographic Learning. Sci Stud Read 21:31-45
Fang, Xiaoping; Perfetti, Charles A (2017) Perturbation of old knowledge precedes integration of new knowledge. Neuropsychologia 99:270-278
Harris, Lindsay N; Perfetti, Charles A (2016) Lexical Stress and Linguistic Predictability Influence Proofreading Behavior. Front Psychol 7:96
Adlof, Suzanne; Frishkoff, Gwen; Dandy, Jennifer et al. (2016) Effects of induced orthographic and semantic knowledge on subsequent learning: A test of the partial knowledge hypothesis. Read Writ 29:475-500
Stafura, Joseph Z; Rickles, Benjamin; Perfetti, Charles A (2015) ERP evidence for memory and predictive mechanisms in word-to-text integration. Lang Cogn Neurosci 30:1273-1290
Elgort, Irina; Perfetti, Charles A; Rickles, Ben et al. (2015) Contextual learning of L2 word meanings: Second language proficiency modulates behavioural and ERP indicators of learning. Lang Cogn Neurosci 30:506-528
Harris, Lindsay N; Perfetti, Charles A; Rickles, Benjamin (2014) Error-related negativities during spelling judgments expose orthographic knowledge. Neuropsychologia 54:112-28

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