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Cognitive processes and neural correlates of reading in languages with graded levels of orthographic transparency: Spanish, English and Hebrew

Fern-Pollak, L; (2009) Cognitive processes and neural correlates of reading in languages with graded levels of orthographic transparency: Spanish, English and Hebrew. Doctoral thesis , Brunel University.

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Abstract

This thesis examined the cognitive processes and neural correlates involved in reading Spanish (a transparent orthography), English (an intermediate orthography) and Hebrew (an opaque orthography) by bilinguals and trilinguals. The main objectives of the five experiments were to: (i) extend previous findings which demonstrated that orthographic transparency influences the degree of reliance on lexical and sublexical processing, and (ii) assess the effects of orthographic transparency and language proficiency on strategies employed for reading in a second and third language. Word/non-word naming tasks undertaken by Spanish-English bilinguals, Hebrew-English bilinguals and English monolinguals, where frequency, length and lexicality were manipulated, showed a predominant reliance on sublexical processing in Spanish, lexical processing in Hebrew, and a balanced interplay in English. Effects of language proficiency were also observed as slower naming and lower accuracy in English as a second language. Concurrently, while showing an efficient adaptation of reading strategy to the level of orthographic transparency of English, Hebrew bilinguals appeared to show stronger reliance on sublexical processing than Spanish bilinguals, suggesting a compensatory mechanism. fMRI experiments showed that reading in all languages was associated with a common network of predominantly left-lateralised cerebral regions. Reading in each language was associated with some preferential activation within regions implicated in lexical and sublexical processing, in keeping with their graded levels of orthographic transparency. Effects of language proficiency were demonstrated as increased activation within medial frontal regions implicated in attentional processes as well as right-lateralised homologous language-processing regions. Furthermore, the patterns of activation seen in Hebrew readers in English strengthened the notion of a compensatory mechanism. Finally, a trilingual experiment replicated findings observed in bilinguals, revealed the acute complexity of reading in Hebrew as an additional language and further strengthened the concept of a compensatory mechanism in English and Spanish. The present findings further contribute to current knowledge on teaching methods, diagnostic tools and therapeutic strategies for developmental and acquired reading disorders.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Cognitive processes and neural correlates of reading in languages with graded levels of orthographic transparency: Spanish, English and Hebrew
Event: Brunel University
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Psychology and Human Development
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1572729
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