Developmental dyslexia in different languages: language-specific or universal?

Johannes C Ziegler, Conrad Perry, Anna Ma-Wyatt, Diana Ladner, Gerd Schulte-K├Ârne
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 2003, 86 (3): 169-93
Most of the research on developmental dyslexia comes from English-speaking countries. However, there is accumulating evidence that learning to read English is harder than learning to read other European orthographies (Seymour, Aro, & Erskine, 2003). These findings therefore suggest the need to determine whether the main English findings concerning dyslexia can be generalized to other European orthographies, all of which have less irregular spelling-to-sound correspondences than English. To do this, we conducted a study with German- and English-speaking children (n=149) in which we investigated a number of theoretically important marker effects of the reading process. The results clearly show that the similarities between dyslexic readers using different orthographies are far bigger than their differences. That is, dyslexics in both countries exhibit a reading speed deficit, a nonword reading deficit that is greater than their word reading deficit, and an extremely slow and serial phonological decoding mechanism. These problems were of similar size across orthographies and persisted even with respect to younger readers that were at the same reading level. Both groups showed that they could process larger orthographic units. However, the use of this information to supplement grapheme-phoneme decoding was not fully efficient for the English dyslexics.


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