German and English bodies: no evidence for cross-linguistic differences in preferred orthographic grain size

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    Previous studies have found that words and nonwords with many body neighbours (i.e., words with the same orthographic body, e.g., cat, brat, at) are read faster than items with fewer body neighbours. This body-N effect has been explored in the context of cross-linguistic differences in reading where it has been reported that the size of the effect differs as a function of orthographic depth: readers of English a deep orthography, show stronger facilitation than readers of German, a shallow orthography. Such findings support the psycholinguistic grain size theory, which proposes that readers of English rely on large orthographic units to reduce ambiguity of print-to-speech correspondences in their orthography. Here we re-examine the evidence for this pattern and find that there is no reliable evidence for such a cross-linguistic difference. Re-analysis of a key study (Ziegler et al., 2001), analysis of data from the English Lexicon Project (Balota et al., 2007), and a large-scale analysis of nine new experiments all support this conclusion. Using Bayesian analysis techniques, we find little evidence of the body-N effect in most tasks and conditions. Where we do find evidence for a body-N effect (lexical decision for nonwords), we find evidence against an interaction with language.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number5
    Pages (from-to)1-21
    Number of pages21
    JournalCollabra: Psychology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • psycholinguistic grain size theory
    • failure to replicate
    • body-rime correspondences
    • sublexical processing
    • Bayes Factor


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