WORKING MEMORY IN READING DIFFERENT SCRIPTS: A COMPARISON BETWEEN READING LOGOGRAPHIC CHINESE AND ALPHABETIC ENGLISH
Texas A&M International University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Logographic Chinese and alphabetic English are two quite different scripts. Do the linguistic differences between the two scripts trigger different cognitive mechanisms in processing them in lower-level reading processes, such as word reading? To answer the question, two experiments were conducted in this study to examine the involvement of visuo-spatial working memory (WM) and verbal WM in word reading in Chinese versus English. In these experiments, Chinese participants and English participants were asked to quickly read words in their native language in two conditions: Word reading was accompanied with a concurrent visuo-spatial WM task (Condition 1) and word reading was accompanied with a concurrent verbal WM task (Condition 2). The results showed that Chinese participants had a significantly lower word reading accuracy in the visuo-spatial WM condition than in the verbal WM condition. In contrast, English participants had a significantly lower word reading accuracy in the verbal WM condition relative to the visuo-spatial condition, when high frequency words were read. Based on the findings, it was concluded that reading logographic Chinese and alphabetic English differentially involve visuo-spatial WM and verbal WM at the word reading level. Whereas reading Chinese to a greater level involves visuo-spatial WM, reading English involves verbal WM more in word processing. As predicted, the linguistic features of different scripts invite underlying cognitive differences in processing them. This study is one of the first studies examining the role of visuo-spatial WM in lower-level reading processes. It also provides a new and different perspective to examine individual differences in reading processes. Practically, the findings of the study have important implications to the instructional practices for Chinese/English bilingual readers. In the long run, the study might also shed light on new interventional methods for English dyslexia.
Keywords: Word reading, word recognition, working memory, comparative language studies.