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Reading in two writing systems: Accommodation and assimilation of the brain's reading network

  • CHARLES A. PERFETTI (a1), YING LIU (a1), JULIE FIEZ (a1), JESSICA NELSON (a1), DONALD J. BOLGER (a1) and LI-HAI TAN (a2)...

Abstract

Bilingual reading can require more than knowing two languages. Learners must acquire also the writing conventions of their second language, which can differ in its deep mapping principles (writing system) and its visual configurations (script). We review ERP (event-related potential) and fMRI studies of both Chinese–English bilingualism and Chinese second language learning that bear on the system accommodation hypothesis: the neural networks acquired for one system must be modified to accommodate the demands of a new system. ERP bilingual studies demonstrate temporal indicators of the brain's experience with L1 and L2 and with the frequency of encounters of words in L2. ERP learning studies show that early visual processing differences between L1 and L2 diminish during a second term of study. fMRI studies of learning converge in finding that learners recruit bilateral occipital-temporal and also middle frontal areas when reading Chinese, similar to the pattern of native speakers and different from alphabetic reading. The evidence suggests an asymmetry: alphabetic readers have a neural network that accommodates the demands of Chinese by recruiting neural structures less needed for alphabetic reading. Chinese readers have a neural network that partly assimilates English into the Chinese system, especially in the visual stages of word identification.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Charles Perfetti, 644 LRDC, University of Pittsburgh, 3939 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA E-mail: Perfetti@Pitt.edu

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Some of the research reported in this article was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (Perfetti), the James S. McDonnell Foundation (Fiez and Perfetti), and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (Tan).

Footnotes

Reading in two writing systems: Accommodation and assimilation of the brain's reading network

  • CHARLES A. PERFETTI (a1), YING LIU (a1), JULIE FIEZ (a1), JESSICA NELSON (a1), DONALD J. BOLGER (a1) and LI-HAI TAN (a2)...

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