Reading and Writing

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 381–403 | Cite as

The effects of first language orthographic features on word recognition processing in English as a second language

  • Nobuhiko Akamatsu


This study investigated the possible effects of first language (L1) orthographic characteristics on word recognition in English as a second language (ESL). Case alternation was used to examine the impact of visually distorted words of different types on fluent ESL readers' word recognition in naming. Visual distortion of word shape (i.e., cAsE aLtErNaTiOn) was utilized because, although visually distorted words have lost word-shape cues, they preserve the cue value of words (i.e., spelling patterns). It, therefore, was hypothesized that if one is sensitive to alphabetic orthography, or if one's inner mechanism of processing an alphabetic word is efficient, then the visual disruption of word-shape cues should not affect one's sensitivity to sequences of letters in words. In other words, this study focused on the magnitude of the effect of case alternation in word recognition as an index of the sensitivity to alphabetic words. Results showed that the magnitude of the case alternation effect in a naming task was significantly larger for the ESL participants whose L1 is not alphabetic (i.e., Chinese and Japanese) than the ESL participants whose L1 is alphabetic (i.e., Iranians -- Persian as L1). This result seems to indicate that the Persian speakers, due to the facilitating influence of their L1 orthography, were less influenced by case alternation than the Chinese and Japanese speakers, whose L1 orthographies are not alphabetic. This finding suggests that the first language orthographic features affect the orthographic coding mechanisms (i.e., word recognition mechanisms) in a second language.

Case alternation Language transfer Orthographic processing Second language Word recognition 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nobuhiko Akamatsu
    • 1
  1. 1.Joetsu University of EducationNiigataJapan

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