Orthographic, phonological, and semantic dynamics during visual word recognition in deaf versus hearing adults

Orna Peleg*, Galia Ben-Hur, Osnat Segal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Studies on reading in individuals with severeto-profound hearing loss (deaf ) raise the possibility that, due to deficient phonological coding, deaf individuals may rely more on orthographic–semantic links than on orthographic–phonological links. However, the relative contribution of phonological and semantic information to visual word recognition in deaf individuals was not directly assessed in these studies. The aim of the present study, therefore, was to examine the interplay between orthographic, phonological, and semantic representations during visual word recognition, in deaf versus hearing adults. Method: Deaf and hearing participants were asked to perform a visual lexical decision task in Hebrew. The critical stimuli consisted of three types of Hebrew words, which differ in terms of their relationship between orthography, phonology, and semantics: unambiguous words, homonyms, and homographs. Results: In the hearing group, phonological effects were more pronounced than semantic effects: Homographs (multiple pronunciations) were recognized significantly slower than homonyms or unambiguous words (one pronunciation). However, there was no significant difference between homonyms (multiple meanings) and unambiguous words (one meaning). In contrast, in the deaf group, there was no significant difference among the three word types, indicating that visual word recognition, in these participants, is driven primarily by orthography. Conclusion: While visual word recognition in hearing readers is accomplished mainly via orthographic–phonological connections, deaf readers rely mainly on orthographic– semantic connections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2334-2344
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020


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