Systematicity in language and the fast and slow creation of writing systems: Understanding two types of non-arbitrary relations between orthographic characters and their canonical pronunciation

Hana Jee*, Monica Tamariz, Richard Shillcock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Words that sound similar tend to have similar meanings, at a distributed, sub-symbolic level (Monaghan, Shillcock, Christiansen, & Kirby, 2014). We extend this paradigm for measuring systematicity to letters and their canonical pronunciations. We confirm that orthographies that were consciously constructed to be systematic (Korean and two shorthand writing systems) yield significant correlations between visual distances between characters and the corresponding phonological distances between canonical pronunciations. We then extend the approach to Arabic, Hebrew, and English and show that letters that look similar tend to sound similar in their canonical pronunciations. We indicate some of the implications for education, and for understanding typical and atypical reading. By using different visual distance metrics we distinguish between symbol-based (Korean, shorthand) and effort-based (Arabic, Hebrew, English) grapho-phonemic systematicity. We reinterpret existing demonstrations of phono-semantic systematicity in terms of cognitive effort.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105197
JournalCognition
Volume226
Early online date9 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jun 2022

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