Contribution of Lexical Quality and Sign Language Variables to Reading Comprehension

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The lexical quality hypothesis proposes that the quality of phonological, orthographic, and semantic representations impacts reading comprehension. In Study 1, we evaluated the contributions of lexical quality to reading comprehension in 97 deaf and 98 hearing adults matched for reading ability. While phonological awareness was a strong predictor for hearing readers, for deaf readers, orthographic precision and semantic knowledge, not phonology, predicted reading comprehension (assessed by two different tests). For deaf readers, the architecture of the reading system adapts by shifting reliance from (coarse-grained) phonological representations to high-quality orthographic and semantic representations. In Study 2, we examined the contribution of American Sign Language (ASL) variables to reading comprehension in 83 deaf adults. Fingerspelling (FS) and ASL comprehension skills predicted reading comprehension. We suggest that FS might reinforce orthographic-to-semantic mappings and that sign language comprehension may serve as a linguistic basis for the development of skilled reading in deaf signers.


This article was originally published in Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, volume 27, issue 4, in 2022.

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