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Literacy Influences Understanding of Speech

Summary: The system with which we learn to read may influence how we process speech, researchers report. Findings suggest the ability to write influences the way in which our brains process language. Source: University of Zurich Do people who can read and write understand spoken language better than those who are illiterate? Research carried out by a UZH researcher with collaborators in India has found that handwriting, specifically the type of writing system used for a language, influences how our brains process speech. The study is published in The Journal of Neuroscience . When we learn to read, connections are developed between the visual system and the language system in our brain. The symbols we see on the page become associated with sounds and meanings. It seems logical, therefore, that our ability to read and write affect our auditory processing of speech. An international team including researchers from UZH has now investigated this question in greater depth. While previous studies focused on alphabetic writing systems in which individual symbols stand for consonants and vowels, in the new study the researchers turned attention to non-alphabetic writing systems. “In the Middle East, East Africa, or South and East Asia, many people read and write languages in which the individual symbols represent syllables or even whole words,” says Alexis Hervais-Adelman, professor of neurolinguistics at the University of Zurich. “We wanted to know whether learning a non-alphabetic script has the same effects on the brain as alphabetic languages.” No link […]

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