Reading and Writing

, Volume 27, Issue 8, pp 1395–1412 | Cite as

The relative contributions of vocabulary, decoding, and phonemic awareness to word reading in English versus German

  • Sebastian Suggate
  • Elaine Reese
  • Wolfgang Lenhard
  • Wolfgang Schneider


Beginning readers in shallow orthographies acquire word reading skills more quickly than in deep orthographies like English. In addition to extending this evidence base by comparing reading acquisition in English with the more transparent German, we conducted a longitudinal study and investigated whether different early reading skills made different contributions to word reading as a function of orthography. Children (n = 133) were recruited from the first year of primary school in New Zealand (age 5;8) and Germany (age 7;2) and from kindergartens in Germany (age 5;0) to provide both age- and schooling-matched samples. Parallel measures of phonemic awareness, vocabulary, decoding skill, and word reading (accuracy) were administered at two time points, 1 year apart. An advantage for orthography and school attendance existed for reading development. Vocabulary made a greater contribution to word reading in English than in German as did decoding skill. Findings underscore the relative importance of vocabulary and decoding skills for early reading in English.


Word reading Decoding skill Nonword reading Vocabulary Orthography English German 



This work was carried out and funded by an Alexander-von-Humboldt research fellowship awarded to the first author at the University of Wuerzburg hosted by the last author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Suggate
    • 1
  • Elaine Reese
    • 2
  • Wolfgang Lenhard
    • 3
  • Wolfgang Schneider
    • 3
  1. 1.University of RegensburgRegensburgGermany
  2. 2.University of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  3. 3.University of WuerzburgWuerzburgGermany

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