Center Papers

Fingerspelling And Print Processing Similarities In Deaf And Hearing Readers

Williams, J., Darcy, I., & Newman, S. (2015). Fingerspelling and print processing similarities in deaf and hearing readers. Journal of Language and Literature, 6(1), 56-65.

Abstract: There has been great interest in how deaf individuals learn to read, particularly with respect to the question of represen- tations and underlying mechanisms. One (re-)emerging theory has been that deaf readers may recruit fingerspelling repre- sentations. This study attempted to delineate the influence of orthography and spoken phonology on visual word recognition of print and fingerspelling. We predicted that deaf students would have increased priming effects for orthographically related print words than phonologically related words in English. Furthermore, we predicted that the same priming effects for print would arise for fingerspelling recognition. Experiment 1 examined print priming in deaf signers, which revealed that deaf rea- ders had similar orthographic priming effects as reported in the hearing literature, but no English phonological priming. In Experiment 2, which examined fingerspelling priming in both deaf and hearing signers, results showed that deaf signers had similar priming effects for both print and fingerspelling that are orthographically similar. For the ASL students, results indicated they may need to directly access their orthographic representations in order to decode fingerspelling. Similarities across Experiments 1 and 2 for deaf students suggested that processing orthography and fingerspelling may use the same underlying mechanisms.