Prelexical representations and processes in reading: Evidence from acquired dyslexia

Teresa Schubert*, Michael McCloskey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


We report a detailed and extensive single-case study of an acquired dyslexic patient, L.H.D., who suffered a left-hemisphere lesion as a result of a ruptured aneurysm. We present evidence that L.H.D.'s reading errors stem from a deficit in visual letter identification, and we use her deficit as a basis for exploring a variety of issues concerning prelexical representations and processes in reading. First, building on the work of other researchers, we present evidence that the prelexical reading system includes an allograph level of representation that represents each distinct visual shape of a letter (e.g., a, A, etc., for the letter A). We extend a theory proposed by Caramazza and Hillis [Caramazza, A., & Hillis, A. (1990a). Spatial representation of words in the brain implied by studies of a unilateral neglect patient. Nature, 346, 267-269] to include an allograph level, and we probe the nature of the allograph representations in some detail. Next, we explore the implications of visual similarity effects and letter perseverations in L.H.D.'s reading performance, arguing that these effects shed light on activation dynamics in the prelexical reading system and on the genesis of L.H.D.'s errors. We also probe the processing of letter case in the visual letter identification process, proposing that separate abstract letter identity and case representations are computed. Finally, we present evidence that the allograph level as well as the abstract letter identity level implement a word-based frame of reference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-395
Number of pages36
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes


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