Orthographic variations and visual information processing

Daisy L. Hung, Ovid J. Tzeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


On the basis of an analysis of how graphemic symbols are mapped onto spoken languages, 3 writing systems with 3 relations between script and speech are identified: logography, syllabary, and alphabet. The systems show a trend that seems to coincide with that of the cognitive development of children. This coincidence may imply that different cognitive processes are required for achieving reading proficiency in different writing systems. The studies reviewed include experiments on visual scanning and lateralization, perceptual demands, word recognition, speech recoding, and sentence comprehension. Results indicate that human visual information processing is indeed affected by orthographic variation but only at the lower levels (data-driven or bottom-up processes). With respect to higher-level processing (concept-driven or top-down processes), reading behavior seems to be immune to orthographic variations. Further analyses of segmentation in script as well as in speech revealed that every orthography transcribes sentences at the level of words and that the transcription is achieved in a morphemic way. (41/2 p ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-414
Number of pages38
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1981


  • stage in cognitive development, effect of orthographic variations on visual information processing, children, literature review


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