Statistical analysis of the bidirectional inconsistency of spelling and sound in French

Abstract

Recent studies suggest that performance attendant on visual word perception is affected not only by the “traditional” feedforward inconsistency (spelling → phonology) but also by its feedback inconsistency (phonology → spelling). The present study presents a statistical analysis of the bidirectional inconsistency for all French monosyllabic words. We show that French is relatively consistent from spelling to phonology but highly inconsistent from phonology to spelling. Appendixes B and C list prior and conditional probabilities for all inconsistent mappings and thus provide a valuable tool for controlling, selecting, and constructing stimulus materials for psycholinguistic and neuropsychological research. Such large-scale statistical analyses about a language’s structure are crucial for developing metrics of inconsistency, generating hypotheses for cross-linguistic research, and building computational models of reading.

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Correspondence to Johannes C. Ziegler.

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The research reported in this article was supported by a German Academic Exchange Service Grant (DAAD-Doktorandenstipendium aus Mitteln des zweiten Hochschulsonderprogramms) awarded to J. C. Ziegler. We thank M. Coltheart and D. Massaro for stimulating discussions on this and related topics and R. S. Berndt, S. Ransdell, and an anonymous reviewer for valuable feedback on an earlier version of this article. We are grateful to A. Content, M. Montant, and A. Rey for their help with the subtleties of French orthography and phonology.

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Ziegler, J.C., Jacobs, A.M. & Stone, G.O. Statistical analysis of the bidirectional inconsistency of spelling and sound in French. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers 28, 504–515 (1996). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03200539

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Keywords

  • Lexical Decision
  • Visual Word
  • Dyslexia
  • Visual Word Recognition
  • Monosyllabic Word