Syllables as representational units in English handwritten production?

Markus F E Damian, Qingqing Qu

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When individuals write words, does syllable structure influence the preparation and execution of the responses? Recent studies conducted with French and Spanish participants have suggested that this is the case; specifically, interletter pauses when writing in uppercase tend to be prolonged when the critical bigram straddles a syllable boundary, compared to when the same bigram occurs within a syllable. This implies that higher-level abstract lin-guistic properties such as syllable structure emerge in the motoric properties of the written response. The current work investigated whether similar syllabic effects are found in English, a language in which syllable boundaries are oftentimes vague and ambiguous, and due to less perceptual salience syllables might be less relevant as organ-isational principles in orthographic output tasks. We asked participants to copy visually presented disyllabic words onto a digital graphic tablet in uppercase letters. Materials were chosen in pairs such that they had identi-cal word-initial trigrams, but the critical bigram for which interletter duration was measured (occupying second and third position) either straddled a syllable boundary (e.g., BA.SIS) or occurred within a syllable (e.g., BAS.KET). In addition, letter movement duration for the first and the third letter were measured. Results showed no systematic effects of syllables, neither in interletter intervals nor in letter durations. These results might suggest that in lan-guages such as English with relatively ambiguous syllabic boundaries, individuals don’t plan and execute written responses in terms of syllables. A number of alternative accounts are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRecherches textuelles
Subtitle of host publicationRecherches en ecritures: regards pluriels
EditorsSylvie Plane, Charles Bazerman
Place of PublicationUniversite de Lorraine
PublisherUniversity of Lorraine - CReM
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9782909498294
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016

Structured keywords

  • Language
  • Cognitive Science

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