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Poster E53, Saturday, August 18, 3:00 – 4:45 pm, Room 2000AB

Ortho-semantic learning of novel words in English-speaking Grade 3 students

Alena Galilee1, Lisa Beck1, Catherine Mimeau2, S. Hélène Deacon1, Aaron J Newman1;1Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 2Université Laval, Quebec City, Canada

INTRODUCTION: It has been proposed that the field of reading development should move from examining established knowledge in domain of orthography and semantics to assessing children’s capacity to learn the meaning of both spelling and meaning of new words, referred as ortho-semantic learning (Deacon et al., 2012). Initial findings suggest that learning measures predict gains and transfer of skills in reading development (Tucker et al., 2016). However, no studies to date have investigated brain mechanisms underlying such learning, which could provide more insight on the role this type of learning plays in reading. OBJECTIVE: In this study, we investigated the ERP activity associated with ortho-semantic learning of spellings and meanings of novel English words. In this preliminary analysis, we focused on the temporal-occipital N170 component associated with early stages of visual word recognition; this component has been shown to have sensitivity to letter strings relative to false fonts (print tuning) and to words relative to consonant strings (lexical tuning). The N170 has also previously been found to be predictive of readiness to read and word reading fluency in young children (Korinth et al., 2012, Eberhard-Moscicka et al., 2015). METHOD: Fifteen native English-speaking children in grade 3 (8-9 years old) participated. All completed standardised behavioural assessments of language. In addition, children completed a learning task in which they learned novel word spellings and meanings by reading short stories. Immediately after learning, participants completed a lexical decision task (LDT) in which they were presented with real words, novel words from the learning task, non-words, consonant strings, and false fonts. RESULTS: After the learning task, participants’ accuracy for spelling and meaning of the novel words was above chance (54% and 83%, respectively). In the LDT, participants correctly identified 61% of novel words and 87% of real words. For the amplitude of the N170, false fonts were significantly smaller from real words (p=0.03), novel words (p=0.007) and non-words (p=0.01). CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that children were able to learn the spellings and meanings of novel words. Additional analyses on a larger sample will examine relationships between individual differences in word reading, ortho-semantic learning, and the N170 component.

Topic Area: Language Development