An orthographic effect in phoneme processing, and its limitations

Anne Cutler, Chris Wayne Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


In three phoneme goodness rating experiments, listeners heard phonetic tokens varying along a continuum centered on /s/, occurring finally in isolated word or non-word tokens. An effect of spelling appeared in Experiment 1: native English-speakers' goodness ratings for the best /s/ tokens were significantly higher in words spelled with S (e.g., bless) than in words spelled with C (e.g., voice). Since the tokens were in fact identical in each word, this effect indicates less than optimal evaluation performance. No spelling effect appeared when non-native speakers rated the same materials in Experiment 2, indicating that the observed difference could not be due to acoustic characteristics of the S- versus C-words. In Experiment 3, native English-speakers' ratings for /s/ did not differ in non-words rhyming with words consistently spelled with S (e.g., pless) or with words consistently spelled with C (e.g., floice); i.e., no effects of lexical rhyme analogs appeared. It is concluded that the findings are better explained in terms of phonemic decisions drawing upon lexical information where convenient than by obligatory influence of lexical knowledge upon pre-lexical processing.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 18
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberFEB
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Orthography
  • Phonemes
  • Speech recognition
  • Spelling
  • Strategies
  • Top-down versus bottom-up processing


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