The effect of the reliability of print-speech correspondences on generalization in word reading development: A computational approach

The effect of the reliability of print-speech correspondences on generalization in word reading development: A computational approach

First Author: Matthew Cooper Borkenhagen -- University of Wisconsin - Madison
Additional authors/chairs: 
Noam Siegelman; Mark S. Seidenberg ; Jay G. Rueckl
Keywords: Word reading, Transfer, Computational modelling, Information theory
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose
Given the importance of early word reading to the development of reading skill, it is important to understand what properties of the early input promote successful reading acquisition. We investigate this issue using computational simulations, examining how the properties of the mapping of orthography to phonology (O-P) impact the capacity of models to correctly read untrained words.

Methods
Learning was investigated using a feedforward, O-P connectionist network (Plaut, McClelland, Seidenberg, & Patterson, 1996). The training set for each model was a restricted set of monosyllabic English words, such that models’ inputs varied with respect to the reliability of O-P regularities of vowel graphemes and phonemes, measured by entropy (Siegelman, Kearns, & Rueckl, in press). We examine whether the uncertainty in mappings at three grain sizes - context-free regularities, coda-dependent regularities, and onset-dependent regularities - impacts models’ accuracy on untrained words.

Results
Data show that across different graphemes, lower uncertainty (i.e. greater predictability) leads to better generalization; initial inputs that are more regular result in higher accuracy. This is particularly true in regards to regularities at the smaller grain size (i.e. context-free regularities), in which the levels of entropy in the input was consistently predictive of the models' accuracy.

Conclusions
The variability of pronunciation for orthographic vowel segments is an important predictor of generalization to words not directly taught. These findings indicate that such orthographic units may be uniquely well-suited to promote transfer, which is suggestive of their utility in terms of selecting certain words for early print instruction.