Chuchu Li · [LSLT] The Influence of Orthographic Experiences on the Development of the Functional Phonological Unit
The current dissertation project examines how orthographic experiences influence the way children retrieve and encode phonological information during spoken word production. Spoken word production involves the operation of a series of cognitive mechanisms. Speakers start from message or concept encoding (e.g., identify an object in a picture), then select the corresponding lexical item, proceed to the lexeme level, retrieve and encode the phonological information, and finally articulate the sounds (Ferreira, 2010). How do speakers retrieve and encode the phonological information? For example, if a speaker plans to say the word “paper,” does he or she retrieve and encode the spoken word /peipɚ/ as an integral unit, retrieve the constituent syllables /pei/ and /pɚ/ separately, or /p/, /ei/, /p/, and /ɚ/ as four separate phonemic units? In this dissertation project, the term “functional phonological unit” is used to refer to the phonological unit used to plan spoken word production after the stage of lexical selection (add a reference here). Previous research has shown that the orthographic knowledge re-constructs literate speakers’ phonological representation and the acquisition of alphabetic orthographic knowledge improves children’s phonological awareness at phonemic level. However, few studies have investigated the influence of orthographic experiences on phonological retrieval and encoding in spoken word production. Native Mandarin-speaking children provide an excellent opportunity for testing how orthographic experiences with two different writing systems of the same language influence the development of the functional phonological unit. Pinyin system is an alphabetic transcription of the pronunciation of the logographic Chinese characters, used to help young children learn to read characters. Grade 1 (6-year-old) children are more exposed to alphabetic Pinyin and have very limited character knowledge. Grade 4 (9-year-old) children are more exposed to characters and have better character knowledge.Skilled adult readers have the highest level of character knowledge and most exposure to characters. Three picture naming experiments are proposed to address the functional phonological unit selected by the three different age groups. The hypothesis is that, Grade 1 children will select the small unit (i.e., onset) as the functional phonological unit due to their Pinyin exposure and limited character knowledge; Grade 4 children will tend to select the large unit (i.e., the syllable unit) as a result of their exposure to and increased knowledge of characters; adults should select the large unit in a more stable and robust fashion because of their most advanced character knowledge and extensive exposure to characters. Experiment 1 will investigate whether onset serves as the functional phonological unit in monosyllabic word production; Experiment 2 will investigate whether the role of onset in phonological retrieval and encoding sustains when producing disyllabic words; Experiment 3 will examine the role of syllable in disyllabic word production. Pilot data suggest that the preferred functional phonological unit may be consistent with the writing system that children are more exposed to and in which children have better knowledge.