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Bi-alphabetism: challenges imposed by visual, phonological and executive processing load and the implications for models of reading, Laure Beth Feldman, Ph. D.

The Edmond J. Safra Center
Is proud to present its next open talk to the public:

Bi-alphabetism: challenges imposed by visual, phonological and executive processing load and the implications for models of reading


Prof. Laure Beth Feldman

Prof. Laure Beth Feldman
Psychology Department, University at Albany,
State University of New York & Haskins Laboratories, New Heaven, Connecticut


    Native speakers of the Serbian language in the former Yugoslavia use two alphabets  (Cyrillic and Roman) and word recognition studies based on manipulations of letters from the two alphabets have played a central role in understanding the interrelation of phonology and semantics in skilled reading. Starting more than twenty years ago  (e.g., Feldman & Turvey, 1983) a literature has accrued showing that Serbian words composed only of letters that exist in both the Roman and Cyrillic alphabets are slower in a lexical decision task than are the unique alphabet transcriptions of those same words but only when some of those letters have different phonemic interpretations in each.  For example latencies in a lexical decision task are slower and less accurate to phonologically ambiguous targets (e.g., PETAK meaning “Friday” when pronounced as a Roman string  /petak/ but readable without meaning when pronounced as Cyrillic as /retak/) than to the unique alphabet transcription of the same word ПЕТАК.  The PETAK – ПЕТАК comparison (the ambiguity effect) is particularly compelling evidence of a phonological contribution to skilled reading because it contrasts two alphabetic transcriptions of the same word; therefore all of its lexical and semantic properties (e.g., frequency, letter length, meaning) are identical. More recent studies have considered the processing cost incurred by switching between alphabet codes (Filipović Đurđević, Milin & Feldman, 2013) and its analogs to bilingualism

    I will present an overview of the work on bialphabetism including the results of ongoing experiments that track the effects of visual, phonological and executive processing load on the detriment incurred by phonologically ambiguous words relative to their unique alphabet controls and will discuss the role of working memory components in the process of code switching while reading.

    Laurie Beth Feldman is Professor of Psychology, at The University at Albany, State University of New York and Senior Scientist at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, CT. She visits the University of Haifa under the auspices of the Fulbright Specialist Program and is hosted by Zohar Eviatar.

    She completed her undergraduate degree in psychology and French at Wellesley College and graduate degrees at the University of Connecticut. The unifying theme to her program of research is the question of how a language user concurrently manages two linguistic codes. These interactions include two languages, two writing systems for one language, native and accented speech, speech and text, and emoticon and text.  Much of this work has been supported by funds from NAS, NSF, NICHD, and IARPA. She is a Fellow of APS, and a member of the AAAS and the Psychonomic Society. She works with Women in Cognitive Science, a group that promotes the advancement of women  (http://womenincogsci.org/).

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