Processing of written words by individuals with prelingual deafness

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    The aim of this study was to elucidate how prelingual deafness affects the ability to process written words. An experiment designed to reveal possible differences in the word-processing strategies and efficiency of a sample of prelingually deafened students (n = 18; mean grade = 5.1) and a task-matched hearing control group (n = 28; mean grade = 4.9) was conducted. The experiment was based on a research paradigm demanding the same/different categorization of physically (perceptually) or conventionally identical word pairs. To elucidate the nature of the word-processing strategy adopted by each group, word pairs varying within their phonological information (monosyllabic, bisyllabic) were used for stimulation. Unexpectedly, findings revealed that the abilities of the 2 participant groups to process written words were remarkably similar. This was true whether or not the processing of the word pairs required the referencing of linguistic knowledge for the mediation of their identicalness. Furthermore, there was no evidence that either of the 2 participant groups relied on phonological information for processing the stimuli. In general, the findings support a conclusion that the difficulties of prelingually deafened individuals with reading are not rooted in a deficient ability to process written words per se but reflect the absence of crucial (probably general as well as linguistic) knowledge as the basis for their final interpretation. The results further suggest that the phonological decoding of written words may not be a prerequisite for their efficient processing in working memory.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)979-989
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
    Issue number5
    StatePublished - Oct 2004


    • Deafness
    • Phonology
    • Reading
    • Reading strategy
    • Word processing

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language
    • Speech and Hearing


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