Tamkang University, Taiwan
In an attempt to compare how orthography and phonology interact in EFL learners with different reading abilities, online measures were administered in this study to two groups of university learners, indexed by their reading scores on the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC). In terms of accuracy, the less-skilled learners performed significantly more poorly than the skilled learners in Nonword Reading, Word Reading, and Rhyme Detection. With regard to reaction times, the less-skilled learners also responded significantly more slowly while they read nonwords and vocabulary words. Nevertheless, both groups performed comparably on Rhyme Detection when asked to decide whether word pairs varied in their orthographic (O) and phonological (P) similarity (S) or difference (D). A further investigation on the test items revealed that the two groups performed comparably in accuracy only when a pair of words was orthographically similar and phonologically similar (OSPS). Intriguingly, the most significant between-group difference occurred when a pair of words was orthographically similar but phonologically different (OSPD), suggesting that orthography played a bigger role in word recognition among less-skilled learners. In contrast, the two groups performed non-differentially in reaction times only when a pair of words was orthographically different but phonological similar (ODPS), suggesting that the skilled learners relied more on phonology in word recognition and might have slowed down as a consequence. Taken together, the results seem to suggest that the less-skilled learners had significantly weaker word recognition skills and phonological representations of English words, which might be attributed to their over-reliance on orthography during word recognition processes.
Key Words：EFL, orthography, phonology, word recognition, university learners