Getting to the bottom of orthographic depth

Xenia Schmalz*, Eva Marinus, Max Coltheart, Anne Castles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Orthographic depth has been studied intensively as one of the sources of cross-linguistic differences in reading, and yet there has been little detailed analysis of what is meant by orthographic depth. Here we propose that orthographic depth is a conglomerate of two separate constructs: the complexity of print-to-speech correspondences and the unpredictability of the derivation of the pronunciations of words on the basis of their orthography. We show that on a linguistic level, these two concepts can be dissociated. Furthermore, we make different predictions about how the two concepts would affect skilled reading and reading acquisition. We argue that refining the definition of orthographic depth opens up new research questions. Addressing these can provide insights into the specific mechanisms by which language-level orthographic properties affect cognitive processes underlying reading.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1614-1629
Number of pages16
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • Cross-linguistic differences
  • Orthographic depth
  • Reading


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