The Effects of Orthography and Phonology on Vocabulary Acquisition



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The purpose of this study was to examine whether orthographic and phonological properties of nonwords facilitate or inhibit vocabulary acquisition in adult skilled readers. Participants' eye movements were measured as they read a series of sentence pairs containing either a familiar word or a nonword. There were three conditions for the nonwords: orthographic, phonological and neutral. The orthographic nonwords were created by changing one letter of a real word. The phonological nonwords sounded like a real word but had a different spelling. The neutral nonwords did not closely resemble real words in both spelling and pronunciation. Data were analyzed on participants' eye movements and performance on a vocabulary test. It was predicted that the processing times and number of regressions back to the target word would be highest for the phonological condition followed by the orthographic and neutral conditions. However, no differences were found for initial processing times. This finding does not support the prediction that phonology is activated early in word processing. There were some significant differences in the rereading times. Some of these findings suggest that orthography and phonology both play a role in word processing. The results may be explained by word recognition models, which will be discussed in this paper.



orthography, phonology, vocabulary