Does the Brain Read Chinese or Spanish the Same Way It Reads English?
There are at least 6,000 languages spoken in the world today (Comrie, 2009). The world’s languages are represented by a variety of writing systems called “orthographies”. All orthographies code spoken language using a system of symbols. However, orthographies differ in the size of the sound unit that is mapped onto each symbol. For example, in alphabetic orthographies, like English, Spanish, and Russian, each symbol maps onto an individual sound called a phoneme (e.g., the /b/ sound in “book). In non-alphabetic orthographies, like Chinese or Cherokee, the symbol maps onto a larger sound unit such as a syllable (e.g., like “pro” in the word “project”). Over 400 orthographies exist today. Here we will first learn about the characteristics of different orthographies. Then we will use this information to help understand how the characteristics of different writing systems affect reading. We will then learn about the brain regions involved in reading.