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An experiment investigated whether exposure to orthography facilitates oral vocabulary learning. A total of 58 typically developing children aged 8-9 years were taught 12 nonwords. Children were trained to associate novel phonological forms with pictures of novel objects. Pictures were used as referents to represent novel word meanings. For half of the nonwords children were additionally exposed to orthography, although they were not alerted to its presence, nor were they instructed to use it. After this training phase a nonword-picture matching posttest was used to assess learning of nonword meaning, and a spelling posttest was used to assess learning of nonword orthography. Children showed robust learning for novel spelling patterns after incidental exposure to orthography. Further, we observed stronger learning for nonword-referent pairings trained with orthography. The degree of orthographic facilitation observed in posttests was related to children's reading levels, with more advanced readers showing more benefit from the presence of orthography.

Original publication




Journal article


Q J Exp Psychol (Hove)

Publication Date





1948 - 1966


Acoustic Stimulation, Analysis of Variance, Association Learning, Child, Child Development, Female, Humans, Individuality, Linguistics, Male, Neuropsychological Tests, Phonetics, Photic Stimulation, Reading, Verbal Learning, Vocabulary