Macquarie University
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The role of oral vocabulary in the development of children’s orthographic representations

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posted on 2022-03-29, 03:20 authored by Signy Wegener
When children learn to read, how do they come to be able to recognise whole written words quickly and accurately? Knowledge of letter-to-sound correspondences and the sound structure of language are known to be important early in reading acquisition but other cognitive factors must also contribute to the development of skilled reading. One such factor is oral vocabulary (knowledge of the pronunciation and meaning of words), yet its association with reading acquisition remains poorly understood. This thesis aims to elucidate the nature of the relationship between oral vocabulary and reading, with a particular focus on how they might interact as children acquire representations of new written words. According to the orthographic skeleton hypothesis (Chapter 2), children can draw on their knowledge of phoneme-to-grapheme correspondences to generate expectations of the spellings of known spoken words prior to viewing them in writing for the first time. In a series of training studies, Grade 4 children are taught novel oral vocabulary prior to reading these trained items and matched untrained items in sentence contexts while their eye movements are monitored. In each experiment the orthographic skeleton hypothesis is interrogated with a view to providing an elaborated account of their generation and influence on written word learning. Results shed light on the roles of lexical phonology and semantics within the development of orthographic expectancies (Chapter3); the form of the skeleton (Chapter 4); and the influence of the skeleton on subsequent visual exposures to target words (Chapter 5). Findings are linked back to established theories of reading acquisition, the role of oral vocabulary within this process and the causal mechanisms that support this influence (Chapter 6).


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. General introduction -- Chapter 2. Children reading spoken words : interactions between vocabulary and orthographic expectancy -- Chapter 3. The contributions of lexical phonology and semantics to the generation of orthographic expectancies -- Chapter 4. Partial or complete? The early form of orthographic expectancies -- Chapter 5. Tracking the evolution of orthographic expectancies over building visual experience -- Chapter 6. General discussion -- Supplementary materials -- Ethics approvals.


"Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University Centre for Reading, Faculty of Human Science, sMacquarie University, Sydney, Australia" -- title page. Thesis by publication. Includes bibliographical references

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Cognitive Science

Department, Centre or School

Department of Cognitive Science

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Anne Edwina Castles

Additional Supervisor 1

Hua-Chen Wang

Additional Supervisor 2

Kate Nation


Copyright Signy Wegener 2019. Copyright disclaimer:




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