Phonemic feature involvement in lexical access in grades 3 and 5: Evidence from visual and auditory lexical decision tasks


  • Sauval Karinne
  • Perre Laetitia
  • Casalis Séverine

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Numerous studies have evidenced the involvement of the phonological code during visual word recognition not only in skilled adult readers but also in child readers. Moreover, in skilled adult readers, visual word processing has been shown to be sensitive to phonetic details such as phonemic features (e.g., manner of articulation, place of articulation, voicing and nasality in French) which are typically involved in phonological lexicon access during speech processing. In contrast, it is not known whether and when visual word recognition is affected by phonemic features during learning to read. The present study investigates this issue in third and fifth graders. A lexical decision task was performed in visual and auditory modalities. Targets were French words (e.g., piano [piano]) and pseudowords created from target words. Mismatching was on the first phoneme. There were one-feature phoneme mismatch pseudowords (e.g., tiano) and multiple-feature phoneme mismatch pseudowords (e.g., liano). The pseudowords were used as a marker of the sensitivity to phonemic features in phonological lexicon access. Phonemic feature effects were found in visual and auditory lexical decision tasks in both grades, indicating that phonological lexicon access involves phonemic features in print processing as in speech processing. In contrast, the absence of difference between both grades seems to indicate that this effect is independent of age or, more precisely, of phonological development and reading performance.

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