, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 199-207

Phonological coding in word reading: Evidence from hearing and deaf readers

Abstract

The ability of prelingually, profoundly deaf readers to access phonological information during reading was investigated in three experiments. The experiments employed a task, developed by Meyer, Schvaneveldt, and Ruddy (1974), in which lexical decision response times (RTs) to orthographically similar rhyming (e.g., WAVE-SAVE) and nortrhyming (e.g., HAVE-CAVE) word pairs were compared with RTs to orthographically and phonologically dissimilar control word pairs. The subjects of the study were deaf college students and hearing college students. In Experiments 1 and 2, in which the nonwords were pronounceable, the deaf subjects, like the hearing subjects, were facilitated in their RTs to rhyming pairs, but not to nonrhyming pairs. In Experiment 3, in which the nonwords were unpronounceable, both deaf and hearing subjects were facilitated in their RTs to both rhyming and nonrhyming pairs, with the facilitation being significantly greater for the rhyming pairs. These results indicate that access to phonological information is possible despite prelingual and profound hearing impairment. As such, they run counter to claims that deaf individuals are limited to the use of visual strategies in reading. Given the impoverished auditory, experience of such readers, these results suggest that the use of phonological information need not be tied to the auditory modality.