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Partial Information and Gestalt Perception: How Native and Nonnative Speakers of English Process Mutilated Texts in English

Tue, March 21, 9:10 to 9:40am, Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront, Douglas Fir

Session Submission Type: Paper


This study examined the effect of mutilated texts at the top and bottom on reading accuracy and speed among native speakers of Chinese, Korean, and English. Significant differences found among the three groups were explained through the activation-verification model (Paap et al., 1982) and L1 script effects.


As the scripts of Chinese, Korean, and English are different from one another, L1 script effects on L2 reading were examined. Drawing upon the activation-verification model (Paap et al., 1982), this study examined how native and nonnative speakers of English recovered missing information from mutilated texts at the top and bottom. It was hypothesized that, due to L1 script differences, native readers of Chinese (logography) and Korean (alphasyllabary) would perform differently on reading mutilated texts in L2 English.

A computer-based naming test, including words and phrases/sentences with and without mutilated texts at the top or bottom, was administered to 155 university students in three international sites. Eighty English words and phrases/sentences were drawn from Fry’s third-grade sight-word list. Lowercase stimuli served as baseline data, while mutilated texts served as experimental conditions.

Descriptive statistics showed that top-only texts were read more accurately and faster than bottom-only texts. A 2 (conditions) x 3 (L1 groups) repeated-measures ANCOVA was performed, using the lowercase baseline data as a covariate. Results showed no significant main effects but significant interaction effects in reading mutilated words. For phrases/sentences, there were significant main effects and interaction effects for both accuracy and reading time. The Chinese participants showed the lowest performance in accuracy and reading speed, but the baseline data was controlled, the magnitude of interference effects was the smallest among the three groups. The Korean readers’ performance was consistently placed in between.

The significant difference in accuracy and reading speed between Chinese and Koreans, even English proficiency was taken into account, suggests robust L1 script effects. Since Chinese characters are more likely to be processed holistically due to the nature of logographs, Chinese readers seem to be not as sensitive to the position of mutilation in texts as those of Korean and English.