Readers learn much of their vocabulary through incidental exposure during reading. Learning a novel vocabulary word includes learning its meaning (semantics), spelling (orthography), and pronunciation (phonology). Much of the previous research has focused on how readers learn the meanings of novel words incidentally (e.g., Bolger, Balass, Landen, & Perfetti, 2008; Frishkoff, Perfetti, & Collins-Thompson, 2010; Frishkoff, Perfetti, & Westbury, 2009). Overall, these studies have found that learning a word’s spelling is related to learning its meaning. These findings indicate that learning the meaning of a word is improved when both meaning and spelling are learned together. However, less research has investigated the learning of a novel word’s form (orthography and phonology), particularly how the learning of a word’s meaning influences the learning of its form. The current study investigated this relationship between orthography and semantics, and their interaction when learning novel words. Sixteen novel words were embedded in three informative or uninformative sentence contexts; the context occurred immediately before the target word. Participants read these sentences silently for comprehension while their eye-movements were monitored. Immediately after the reading session, participants completed surprise spelling and meaning posttests to measure their word learning. Results indicate that orthographic and semantic learning are correlated such that learning one is related to improved learning of the other. These findings suggest that learning semantics and orthography independently may not be the best way to learn novel words, and they have implications for theories of individual differences in reading comprehension.
Jocelyn R. Folk
Readers learn novel words through incidental exposure during reading. Previous research has demonstrated that learning a word’s meaning (semantics) is easier when the spelling (orthography) is also learned, suggesting that semantic learning is improved when semantics and spelling are learned together. However, less research has investigated the role of semantics in the learning of novel word spelling. The current study investigated the relationship between learning a word’s semantics and spelling, and their interaction when learning novel words. Sixteen novel words were embedded in three informative or uninformative sentences. Participants read these sentences while their eye-movements were monitored, followed by surprise semantic and spelling posttests. Results indicate that orthographic and semantic learning are correlated, indicating that learning is improved when semantics and orthography are learned together.