Authors: Landerl, K., Frith, U., & Wimmer, H.

Article: Intrusion of orthographic knowledge on phoneme awareness: Strong in normal readers, weak in dyslexic readers..

Publication: Applied Psycholinguistics (Cambridge University Press). 17(1), 1-14. January 1996 | DOI: 10.1017/S0142716400009437

[Full Text]


In three typical phonological awareness tasks it was found that children with normal reading development sometimes give responses that are based on orthographic rather than phonological information. In dyslexic children, the number of occurrences of such orthographic intrusions was significantly lower. This effect cannot be explained by positing a lower degree of orthographic knowledge in dyslexic children since a group of younger children who had the same spelling level as the dyslexics also showed more orthographic intrusions. A plausible explanation for this difference between normal and dyslexic readers is that, in normal readers, phonological and orthographic representations of words are so closely connected that they are usually coactivated, even if such a coactivation is misleading. In dyslexics this connection is less strong, so that orthographic representations interfere less with phonemic segmentation. The relevance of this finding with respect to recent assumptions about the importance of phonology in establishing orthographic representations is discussed.


We suggest that, in the dyslexics’ mental lexicon, there is less connection
between orthographic and phonological representations. We have reason to
believe that dyslexics acquire word spellings in a way that is different from normal readers, namely, with less phonological underpinning.


In conclusion, we suggest that a weak link between phonological and
orthographic representations might be a central problem in dyslexia. Thus, seeing a written word does not automatically evoke the word’s inner sound. Moreover, the sound of a word does not automatically evoke the inner orthographic image. It may be that it is this automatic coactivation that makes phoneme awareness tasks so easy for alphabetically literate people -even though the same mechanism makes them susceptible to unwanted interference. Ironically, under certain conditions, the hypothesized disconnection enables dyslexics to outperform normal readers on phonological awareness tasks.

APA Citation:

Landerl, K., Frith, U., & Wimmer, H. (1996). Intrusion of orthographic knowledge on phoneme awareness: Strong in normal readers, weak in dyslexic readers. Applied Psycholinguistics, 17(1), 1-14. doi:10.1017/S0142716400009437

Tagged as: orthographic mapping and phonological processing

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