Acquiring an artificial logographic orthography

the beneficial effects of a logographic L1 background and bilinguality

John F. Ehrich, Renata F.I. Meuter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)


To date, studies have focused on the acquisition of alphabetic second languages in alphabetic first language (L1) users, demonstrating significant transfer effects. The present study examines the process from a reverse perspective, comparing logographic (Mandarin-Chinese) and alphabetic (English) L1 users in the acquisition of an artificial logographic script to determine whether similar language-specific advantageous transfer effects occurred. Chinese-English bilinguals, English-French bilinguals, and English monolinguals learned a small set of symbols (six nouns and six verbs) in an artificial logographic script. A lexical decision task on the artificial symbols revealed markedly faster response times in the Chinese-English bilinguals, indicating a logographic transfer effect suggestive of a language experience- specific advantage. A syntactic decision task evaluated the degree to which the new language was mastered beyond the single word level. No L1-specific transfer effects were found for artificial language strings. However, when carrying out the same task in the native language, both the Chinese-English and the English-French bilinguals outperformed the English monolinguals, indicative of a bilingual processing advantage. The results are discussed in relation to possible differences in processing styles relating to logographic versus alphabetic languages, variably involving visual versus phonological coding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-745
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • developmental
  • cognitive
  • language
  • learning/cognition

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Acquiring an artificial logographic orthography: the beneficial effects of a logographic L1 background and bilinguality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this