From proto-writing to multimedia literacy: Scripts and orthographies through the ages

Rena Helms-Park, Vedran Dronjic, Shawna Kaye Tucker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


We begin this book on reading in a second language with an examination of scripts. Apart from the obvious fact that the reader needs to decode and interpret a text written in a particular script, there are more compelling reasons for examining the systems used to represent linguistic structures in writing. Perhaps foremost among these is the interplay of cognitive skills required to recognize language-specific words, which have their own structural characteristics, in a specific script, which also has its own structural peculiarities. While the “visual word form area” has been shown to be script-neutral (Nakamura, Dehaene, Jobert, Le Bihan, & Kouider, 2005), there are differences in the areas of the brain that are engaged while reading even when the script used is the same, as with Italian and English (Paulesu et al., 2000). The visual word form area responds differentially to differences in bigrams (grapheme pairs in languages), displaying greater partiality to high-frequency pairings in an L1 script than to low-frequency or non-existent ones (Vinckier et al., 2007); the same predilection is displayed when responding to stimuli from one’s own script versus an unknown one (Baker et al., 2007). Thus, it is not surprising that reading in a second script demands proficiency not only in the second language (L2) linguistic code but also in the special ways in which this code is represented in writing. Without some degree of automatization of L2 visual word recognition skills, higher-level processing of a text - and probably even sentence-level comprehension - is either laborious or unachievable. Furthermore, L1 strategies continue to exert an influence on L2 reading at various levels of proficiency, as seen in various behavioural studies (e.g., Chikamatsu, 1996; Cook & Bassetti, 2005; Koda, 2005; Muljani, Koda, & Moates, 1998; Wang & Geva, 2003) as well as L1-L2 brain studies (e.g., Nakada, Fujii, & Kwee, 2001; Tan et al., 2003). Examining the attributes of the scripts in question affords the learner, instructor, or researcher an opportunity to hypothesize what mechanisms are at play in particular cases of biliteracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationReading in a Second Language
Subtitle of host publicationCognitive and Psycholinguistic Issues
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9781134690992
ISBN (Print)9780415893923
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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