Effects of orthographic consistency on eye movement behavior

German and English children and adults process the same words differently

Anne K. Rau*, Kristina Moll, Margaret J. Snowling, Karin Landerl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Citations (Scopus)


The current study investigated the time course of cross-linguistic differences in word recognition. We recorded eye movements of German and English children and adults while reading closely matched sentences, each including a target word manipulated for length and frequency. Results showed differential word recognition processes for both developing and skilled readers. Children of the two orthographies did not differ in terms of total word processing time, but this equal outcome was achieved quite differently. Whereas German children relied on small-unit processing early in word recognition, English children applied small-unit decoding only upon rereading-possibly when experiencing difficulties in integrating an unfamiliar word into the sentence context. Rather unexpectedly, cross-linguistic differences were also found in adults in that English adults showed longer processing times than German adults for nonwords. Thus, although orthographic consistency does play a major role in reading development, cross-linguistic differences are detectable even in skilled adult readers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-105
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • word recognition
  • eye movements
  • length effect
  • frequency effect
  • cross-linguistic
  • orthographic consistency

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