Cross-language tests of hemispheric strategies in reading nonwords

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Four experiments explored the effects of specific language characteristics on hemispheric functioning in reading nonwords using a lateralized trigram identification task. Previous research using nonsense consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) trigrams has shown that total error scores reveal a fight visual field (RVF) advantage in Hebrew, Japanese, and English. Qualitative error patterns have shown that the right hemisphere uses a sequential strategy, whereas the left hemisphere uses a more parallel strategy in English but shows the opposite pattern in Hebrew. Experiment 1 tested whether this is due to the test language or to the native language of the participants. Results showed that native language had a stronger effect on hemispheric strategies than test language. Experiment 2 showed that latency to target letters in the CVCs revealed the same asymmetry as qualitative errors for Hebrew speakers but not for English speakers and that exposure duration of the stimuli affected misses differentially according to letter position. Experiment 3 used number trigrams to equate reading conventions in the 2 languages. Qualitative error scores still revealed opposing asymmetry patterns. Experiments 1-3 used vertical presentations. Experiment 4 used horizontal presentation, which eliminated sequential processing in both hemispheres in Hebrew speakers, whereas English speakers still showed sequential processing in both hemispheres. Comparison of the 2 presentations suggests that stimulus arrangement affected qualitative errors in the left visual field but not the RVF for English speakers and in both visual fields for Hebrew speakers. It is suggested that these differences result from orthographic and morphological differences between the languages: Reading Hebrew requires attention to be deployed to all the constituents of the stimulus in parallel, whereas reading English allows sequential processing of the letters in both hemispheres. Implications of cross-language studies for models of hemispheric function are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-515
Number of pages18
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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