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J Res Read. 2015 Feb;38(1):47-72.

Orthographic and semantic processing in young readers.

Author information

1
San Diego State University and University of California San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Language and Communicative Disorders.
2
Department of Psychology, San Diego State University ; Universite de Poitiers, Poitiers, France.

Abstract

This investigation examined orthographic and semantic processing during reading acquisition. Children in first through fourth grade were presented with a target word and two response alternatives, and were asked to identify the semantic match. Words were presented in four conditions: an exact match and unrelated foil (STONE - STONE - EARS), an exact match and an orthographic neighbor foil (STONE - STONE - STOVE), a synonym match and an unrelated foil (STONE - ROCK - EARS), and a synonym match and an orthographic neighbor foil (STONE - ROCK - STOVE). Accuracy and reaction time results suggest that orthographic and semantic processing follow a two-step acquisition pattern. First, the orthographic component of reading develops quickly, however, forming strong conceptual links from orthographic to semantic representations follows a protracted trajectory, which matures between the third and fourth grade. These results are consistent with research that suggests younger children rely on more concrete, perceptual systems and then transition to more flexible, abstract cognition.

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