Nivedita Mani and Falk Huettig (2014)

Word reading skill predicts anticipation of upcoming spoken language input: A study of children developing proficiency in reading

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 126:264-279.

Despite the efficiency with which language users typically process spoken language, a growing body of research finds substantial individual differences in both the speed and accuracy of spoken language processing potentially attributable to participants’ literacy skills. Against this background, the current study took a look at the role of word reading skill in listeners’ anticipation of upcoming spoken language input in children at the cusp of learning to read; if reading skills affect predictive language processing, then children at this stage of literacy acquisition should be most susceptible to the effects of reading skills on spoken language processing. We tested 8-year-olds on their prediction of upcoming spoken language input in an eye-tracking task. Although children, like in previous studies to date, were successfully able to anticipate upcoming spoken language input, there was a strong positive correlation between children’s word reading skills (but not their pseudo-word reading and meta-phonological awareness or their spoken word recognition skills) and their prediction skills. We suggest that these findings are most compatible with the notion that the process of learning orthographic representations during reading acquisition sharpens pre-existing lexical representations, which in turn also supports anticipation of upcoming spoken words.

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