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ERIC Number: EJ1080394
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Nov
Pages: 21
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
When Experience Meets Language Statistics: Individual Variability in Processing English Compound Words
Falkauskas, Kaitlin; Kuperman, Victor
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v41 n6 p1607-1627 Nov 2015
Statistical patterns of language use demonstrably affect language comprehension and language production. This study set out to determine whether the variable amount of exposure to such patterns leads to individual differences in reading behavior as measured via eye-movements. Previous studies have demonstrated that more proficient readers are less influenced by distributional biases in language (e.g., frequency, predictability, transitional probability) than poor readers. We hypothesized that a probabilistic bias that is characteristic of written but not spoken language would preferentially affect readers with greater exposure to printed materials in general and to the specific pattern engendering the bias. Readers of varying reading experience were presented with sentences including English compound words that can occur in 2 spelling formats with differing probabilities: concatenated ("windowsill," used 40% of the time) or spaced ("window sill," 60%). Linear mixed effects multiple regression models fitted to the eye-movement measures showed that the probabilistic bias toward the presented spelling had a stronger facilitatory effect on compounds that occurred more frequently (in any spelling) or belonged to larger morphological families, and on readers with higher scores on a test of exposure-to-print. Thus, the amount of support toward the compound's spelling is effectively exploited when reading, but only when the spelling patterns are entrenched in an individual's mental lexicon via overall exposure to print and to compounds with alternating spelling. We argue that research on the interplay of language use and structure is incomplete without proper characterization of how particular individuals, with varying levels of experience and skill, learn these language structures.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Institutes of Health (DHHS)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Canada
Grant or Contract Numbers: R01HD073288