The perceptual structure of printed words: The case of silent E words in French
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Description: ACCEPTED PAPER. According to a widespread view on functional units in word reading, the perceptual structure of printed words is constrained by print-to-speech mappings. Here, we examined the hypothesis that the organization of consonant and vowel letters (the CV pattern) determines the perceived structure of letter strings. Skilled readers were presented with two kinds of bisyllabic French words. Half of the words included a silent E between two consonants (e.g., gobelet, /gɔblɛ/) thus entailing three orthographic vowel groups, while the other half were control words with two vowel groups (e.g., crémeux, /kʀemø/). Participants had to decide on the number of units or reproduce the physical length of the stimuli. Silent E words were consistently estimated to be longer (more units, longer lines) than control words, despite being matched in number of letters and phonemes. The effect was present both in the written modality (Experiments 1A-1B) and in the spoken modality (Experiments 2A-2B). When prereaders and beginning readers with limited knowledge of the orthographic form of words performed the tasks (Experiments 3A-3B), no bias was found, confirming its orthographic nature in skilled readers. The study provides a clear confirmation of the predictions based on the CV pattern hypothesis according to which the number of vowel letter clusters determines the perceived units of letter strings.