The functions of phonology in the acquisition of reading: lexical and sentence processing

Rhona S. Johnston, G.Brian Thompson, Claire M. Fletcher-Flinn, Christopher Holligan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


It has been claimed (Y. Coltheart, Laxon, Rickard, & Elton, 1988) that learners as well as skilledreaders use phonology for multiple functions in reading-far-meaning tasks. This claim was examinedusing lexical decision and sentence evaluation tasks. It was found in the first experiment that thetype of instruction learners had received determined whether there was prelexical use of phonologyin responding to items out of sentence context. Typeof instruction had no effect when the items werein context. In the second experiment, performances on a homophone sentence evaluation task anda homophone semantic decision task, which excluded sentence processing, were examined. The resultssuggest that phonology served the function of access to lexical meanings in addition to anyfunction in postlexical sentence processing. The obtained relationships between relative frequenciesof the presented and unpresented homophone mates and item accuracy on these tasks were inconsistentwith exclusive use of "direct access" but consistent with access of lexical meanings viaphonology and application of a "spelling-check" procedure when multiple homophonic meanings areactivated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-766
Number of pages18
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Decision task
  • Stimulus type
  • Lexical decision task
  • Visual similarity
  • Phonological representation


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