Orthographically Influenced Abstract Phonological Representation:: Evidence from Non-rhotic Speakers

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It is typically assumed that when orthography is translated silently into phonology (i.e., when reading silently), the phonological representation is equivalent to the spoken form or, at least, the surface phonemic form. The research presented here demonstrates that the phonological representation is likely to be more abstract than this, and is orthographically influenced. For example, the claim is made that the word corn has an underlying /r/ in its phonological representation, even in non-rhotic dialects. The evidence comes from difficulties observed in judgements about the homophony with a target word of a pseudohomophone whose phonology does not match the putative abstract representation of that word. For example, it is hard to say that the pseudohomophone cawn is homophonic with corn. The conclusion that orthography can shape phonological representation is antithetical to both computational models of the conversion of print to sound and linguistic accounts of phonology.

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