The nature and acquisition of the speech code and reading

Investigator: Fumiko Hoeft, MD, PhD

Location(s): United States


The overarching theme of our research program is the central role of the phonology of language both in spoken language use and in the adaptation of the spoken language to reading. Phonological language forms play a central role in spoken language use, because they are the means that languages provide for making linguistic messages public and so available to other language users. It plays a central role in reading for two important reasons: Developing readers are proficient users of the spoken language, which writing systems encode. Moreover, humans are biologically adapted to spoken language use. It behooves the reader to access adaptations of the brain for spoken language use early on in the process of word identification. The research that we plan is designed to develop our theory of articulatory phonology, and to explore the role of articulatory gestures in speech planning and speech perception. We also intend to ask whether articulatory gestures are accessed by skilled readers and more generally whether the phonology accessed by readers is that in use in the spoken language. In addition, we plan to investigate further the brain systems that support speech and skilled reading using a combination of behavioral research, brain imaging and computational modeling. We also combine brain imaging and behavioral research in longitudinal studies that will investigate the development of the brain systems supporting reading in children. Finally, we plan to investigate factors underlying individual differences in reading skill among good reading young adults, and compensated and uncompensated young adults.