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Reading different writing systems: The grapholinguistic equilibrium hypothesis Mark S. Seidenberg University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Presentation on theme: "Reading different writing systems: The grapholinguistic equilibrium hypothesis Mark S. Seidenberg University of Wisconsin-Madison."— Presentation transcript:


2 Reading different writing systems: The grapholinguistic equilibrium hypothesis Mark S. Seidenberg University of Wisconsin-Madison


4 Golden era for reading research! One of the big success stories in cognitive science/neuroscience (links to education: not so good, at least in US) Not just English; many writing systems, languages Lots of progress!

5 My own work Children, adults Normal, dyslexic English, Serbian, Chinese, other writing systems Brain circuits Behavior Computational models Connectionist models that simulate detailed aspects of acquisition, skilled performance. Dyslexia = anomalies in how system develops Research at UW, Medical College of Wisconsin, Haskins Labs (CT)

6 For today’s talk, I tried to pick a topic that is of interest to this audience

7 Writing Systems and Reading Do properties of writing systems affect –Skilled reading –Learning to read –Brain circuits that support reading –Dyslexia

8 We have this framework…. 1.Mappings between codes are statistical, not categorical 2. Ouput determined by multiple constraints 3.Division of labor among components varies between writing systems between individuals meaning spellingsound context


10 Other models? There are some. Not the time or place to do comparisons. But, DRC Doesn’t Read Correctly And CDP+ Can’d Do Pronunciation, and other stuff Post-hoc fitting of models to data. Only allows models to fit individual studies of a phenomenon, sort of. “incremental, nested”? No, not actually.

11 But that’s a different talk

12 Impact of writing systems: an area where dual-route models have little to say Fitting models to writing systems/languages Each gets a different model, different parameters Similarities/differences built in: have to know them already No learning No semantics No “why”

13 But that’s a different talk

14 It’s a golden era for reading research but it’s taken a while for cross-linguistic issues to come into focus Most research: it’s about the properties of writing systems Orthographic depth I don’t think this is quite right. It’s about writing systems and the languages they represent

15 There are tradeoffs between writing systems and languages There is Grapholinguistic Equilibrium

16 Confidential: I don’t actually know how every writing system in the world works. For example, I don’t know český jazyk Grapholinguistic Equilibrium is a hypothesis. Most of the evidence is circumstantial. Not much direct experimental evidence.

17 Let’s do an experiment here! Now! When you hear Ask: is it true of český jazyk? If it is, great. If it isn’t, I’ll go thi s

18 orthographyphonologysemantics Writing affords routes to meaning! ALL writing So:

19 Whether your word is PICTURE or obrázek

20 An early division of labor theory: Orthographic Depth

21 orthographyphonology semantics Orthographic depth hypothesis: shallow: more orth-phon-sem deep: more orth-sem English: both 1980s Katz, Turvey, Haskins Labs

22 Among alphabetic writing systems, English is unusual many inconsistencies unlike Finnish, Italian, Russian, Korean, others orth-->phon is a big issue for English learners not for everyone else Czech

23 We don’t want theories of reading to be based on the outlier data!

24 It’s true that written English differs from shallower alphabetic systems Assumptions derived from English may not be valid. Findings differ in important respects. But, there are no “outlier” orthographies. Just: Different tradeoffs between writing systems and languages

25 Is English an outlier? For example, Learning to read: are shallow orthographies easier?

26 Case study: Welsh vs. English Welsh: shallowEnglish: deep Different schools, same communities Natural controls for SES etc. (These are older studies, Marketa.)

27 Ellis & Hooper, 2001: Welsh-reading 7 year olds correctly name twice as many words as English readers Spencer & Hanley, 2003: 6 year olds Out of 30 items/ condition

28 Similar findings in other languages Italian Spanish German French Finnish Serbian Turkish Albanian others Handbook of Orthography and Literacy, Joshi & Aron (Eds.), Erlbaum 2006 Seymour et al. (2003) Ziegler et al. (2010) Czech?

29 Issue: These studies equate “reading” with “reading aloud” Question: What is the relationship between reading aloud and comprehension? Not tested or not tested in detail.

30 The word “comprehension” does not occur in this article. Why not?

31 1.Many studies of English show that learning orth-phon is hard Reading aloud is related to comprehension skill 2. Therefore, writing systems that make it easier to learn orth-phon should be easier to learn to read = comprehend Case where thinking was too tied to studies of English.

32 But Reading Aloud ≠ Reading I shall demonstrate…

33 1. Dissociations of reading aloud and comprehension Good reading aloud Zero comprehension

34 Bar Mitzvah Languages Must be able to read Hebrew aloud Do not have to comprehend Can be done if the writing system is shallow Which vowelled Hebrew is. Welsh: also a very good Bar Mitzvah language! For the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the boy/girl

35 Do Shallow Orthographies Promote Better Comprehension? Not in the Welsh-English studies Ellis and Hooper PronunciationWelsh > English ComprehensionEnglish > Welsh* Hanley et al. ComprehensionEnglish > Welsh Correlation between pronunciation, comprehension: English highly significant Welshn.s.

36 “This result suggests that a transparent orthography does not confer any advantages as far as reading comprehension is concerned. As comprehension is clearly the goal of reading this finding is potentially reassuring for teachers of English.” Hanley et al. 2004

37 What about other Bar Mitzvah Languages? Turkish: Aydin Durgunoğlu has looked at both reading aloud and comprehension in detail “Phonological awareness and decoding develop rapidly in both young and adult readers of Turkish because of the transparent orthography and the special characteristics of phonology and morphology. However, reading comprehension is still a problem.” Durgunoğlu, 2006

38 Also true of other shallow orthographies? Czech?

39 English speakers all have (or had) words of this sort in our vocabularies. 2. People comprehend words they cannot pronounce correctly

40 URANUS “URINE-OUS?” Egregious Piquant Suave Rapport Quay Non-pareil Automata Chaos Coitus

41 If we tested my reading aloud, I might perform more poorly than Welsh readers too.

42 3. How shallow are shallow orthographies? Writing systems are not transcriptions of speech. Information relevant to pronunciation is left out. Creates limit on strictly orth-phon-sem processing.

43 Example: Serbo-Croatian, the original “shallow” orthography Grapheme-phoneme correspondences easy, but not sufficient Pronunciation requires more syllabic stress:pitch accent: ZATvoriprisonsRIBAfish vs. to scrub zatVORito shutLUKonion vs. arch PROIZvodiproducts proizVODito produce A lot like English! CONduct conDUCT

44 Czech?

45 4. What prevents people from learning orth-- >sem? Even in shallow orthographies? Harm & Seidenberg (2004) division of labor model learned Orth-phon-sem Orth-sem At the same time. Maybe people do too.

46 5. If shallow is so GREAT, what about Hebrew? It’s shallow all right… … but they leave out the vowels!

47 6. And what about the spoken language? Writing systems differ So do the languages they represent Comprehension depends on both! Gough, Simple view of reading Decoding X Spoken language comprehension

48 Orthographic depth Morphological complexity DEEPERSHALLOWER Morphologically simpleMorphologically complex English, ChineseFinnish, Serbian, Italian, Russian Albanian, Welsh, Spanish, etc. Czech?

49 Why would this relation hold, in general?

50 Consider Serbo-Croatian They get the spelling-sound correspondences for free But the morphology is very complex! 3 genders2 numbers7 cases mascsingnominative femplural genitive neuter dative accusative instrumental locative vocative Czech

51 Mirkovic, Seidenberg, Joanisse (Cognitive Science, 2011) Model of learning Serbian inflectional system

52 Now: imagine learning to read Serbian if, as in English, many letters had multiple pronunciations A few consonants like C and G Each vowel represents many sounds This additional level of complexity would make the system vastly more difficult to learn. Too hard!

53 Contrast: Learning to read in English NOT: one spelling - one sound –But, irregulars are mostly short, high-frequency words –And not arbitrary: HAVE is not “glorp” The inflectional system is trivial –Number on nouns, tense and number on verbs –Makes words shorter too

54 Grapholinguistic Equilibrium The simple view of writing systems and reading: G = orth opacity x linguistic complexity) English: high opacity, low complexity Serbian: low opacity, high complexity Languages/writing systems tend to keep G constant.

55 Languages get the writing systems they deserve In other words (why English spelling reform is pointless)

56 Even more broadly Writing systems provide cues about sound and meaning

57 Late Hieroglyphics Hememu = “humanity” Sound cues + Meaning cues (man, woman, many) meaning sound

58 Chinese Semantic cue “ radical ” Sound cue “ phonetic ” “Mother”

59 In Hebrew and Arabic K-T-B

60 In English Redhea d Blockhea d Deadheads Morphemes = convergence of sound and meaning

61 In Serbo-Croatian all related to “advisor” Lemmas = strong semantic cues

62 In Czech

63 Conclusions Most comparative research on reading has focused on reading aloud –definitely easier in shallow orthographies However, comprehension depends on knowledge of spoken language Spoken languages vary in “morphological depth” and other ways Tradeoffs between properties of writing systems and languages = grapholinguistic equilibrium Writing systems are codes for conveying sound + meaning, universally.

64 meaning spellingsound context Thanks for listening!


66 Are Some Writing Systems Easier to Learn to Read? We won’t know without taking into account properties of spoken language But it doesn’t look like it.

67 But, additional assumptions: Each code is learned,constrained by other codes; Interactivity, not modularity; Information encoded by collections of units, etc. Not specific to reading. Every theory/model must have these basic elements What is different about “dual-route” models (e.g., DRC, CDP+): meaning spellingsound context But, for what? Also: Models don’t address computation of meaning!

68 Millions of readers taught by Whole Language Method! No no no! In the US there are many people who are poor at pronouncing words and nonwords aloud: X

69 orthographyphonology “Dual-route” models are different!!! Two routes to phonology Lexical route Nonlexical route Not about computing meaning!

70 Other talk!

71 University of Wisconsin-Madison A birthplace of American psychology (1886) NRC rankings, 2010

72 DRC



75 ̬

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