Costs and benefits of orthographic inconsistency in reading: evidence from a cross-linguistic comparison

Chiara Valeria Marinelli, Cristina Romani, Cristina Burani, Victoria A. McGowan, Pierluigi Zoccolotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We compared reading acquisition in English and Italian children up to late primary school analyzing RTs and errors as a function of various psycholinguistic variables and changes due to experience. Our results show that reading becomes progressively more reliant on larger processing units with age, but that this is modulated by consistency of the language. In English, an inconsistent orthography, reliance on larger units occurs earlier on and it is demonstrated by faster RTs, a stronger effect of lexical variables and lack of length effect (by fifth grade). However, not all English children are able to master this mode of processing yielding larger inter-individual variability. In Italian, a consistent orthography, reliance on larger units occurs later and it is less pronounced. This is demonstrated by larger length effects which remain significant even in older children and by larger effects of a global factor (related to speed of orthographic decoding) explaining changes of performance across ages. Our results show the importance of considering not only overall performance, but inter-individual variability and variability between conditions when interpreting cross-linguistic differences.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0157457
Number of pages29
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016 Marinelli et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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