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Psychol Bull. 1998 Jan;123(1):71-99.

Toward a strong phonological theory of visual word recognition: true issues and false trails.

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Department of Psychology, University of Arizona, USA.


A strong phonological theory of reading is proposed and discussed. The first claim of this article is that current debates on word recognition are often based on different axioms regarding the cognitive structures of the mental lexicon rather than conflicting empirical evidence. These axioms lead to different interpretations of the same data. It is argued that once the implicit axioms of competing theories in visual word recognition are explicated, a strong phonological model presents a viable and coherent approach. The assumptions underlying a strong phonological theory of reading are outlined, and 4 theoretical questions are examined: Is phonological recoding a mandatory phase of print processing? Is phonology necessary for lexical access? Is phonology necessary for accessing meaning? How can phonology be derived from orthographic structure? These issues are integrated into a general theory that is constrained by all of the findings.

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