The Effect of Orthographic Transparency on Auditory Word Recognition Across the Development of Reading Proficiency

Mehdi Bakhtiar, Maryam Mokhlesin, Chotiga Pattamadilok, Stephen Politzer-Ahles, Caicai Zhang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


A question under debate in psycholinguistics is the nature of the relationship between spoken and written languages. Although it has been extensively shown that orthographic transparency, which varies across writing systems, strongly affects reading performance, its role in speech processing is much less investigated. The present study addressed this issue in Persian, whose writing system provides a possibility to assess the impact of orthographic transparency on spoken word recognition in young children at different stages of reading acquisition. In Persian, the long vowels are systematically present in the script, whereas the spelling correspondence of short vowels is progressively omitted from the script in the course of reading acquisition, thus, turning transparent into opaque spelling. Based on this unique characteristic, we tested 144 monolingual Persian-speaking nonreaders (i.e., preschoolers) and readers (second graders to fifth graders and young adults) in an auditory lexical decision task using transparent and opaque words. Overall, the results showed that, in accordance with the fact that the diacritics of short vowels are progressively omitted during the second year of schooling, the stimuli containing short vowels (opaque words) were recognized more slowly than transparent ones in third graders. Interestingly, there is a hint that the emergence of the transparency effect in the third graders was associated with an overall slower recognition speed in this group compared to their younger peers. These findings indicate that learning opaque spelling-sound correspondence might not only generate interference between the two language codes but also induce a general processing cost in the entire spoken language system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number691989
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2021


  • lexical decision
  • orthographic transparency
  • Persian script
  • reading acquisition
  • spoken word recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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