CISLL Publications

Author ORCID Identifier

Elizabeth Hirshorn:

Lindsay Harris:

Document Type


Publication Title

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences


Cross–writing system research in psychology and cognitive neuroscience has yielded important findings regarding how a writing system’s structure can influence the cognitive challenges of learning to read and the neural under-pinnings of literacy. The current paper reviews these differences and extends the findings to demonstrate diversity in how skilled reading is accomplished within a single writing system, English. We argue that broad clusters of behavioral and neural patterns found across writing systems can also be found within subpopulations who display atypical routes to skilled English reading, subpopulations including Chinese–English bilinguals, deaf native signers, compensated readers, and distortion-sensitive readers. The patterns of interest include a tradeoff between the degree of reliance on phonological and morphological processing for skilled reading, a shift in attentional focus from smaller to larger orthographic units, and enhanced bilaterality of neural processing during word reading. Lastly, we consider how understanding atypical routes to reading may apply to other writing systems.



Publication Date



Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literature| Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology, and Foundations (LEPF)

Special Interest Group

Diversity and Language Processing, Second-Language Learning and Bilingualism