Date of Award

Summer 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Communication Sciences and Disorders

First Advisor

Suzanne Adlof


Purpose – Both orthographic and phonemic awareness are essential to reading. However, the role of orthographic knowledge in phonemic awareness has not been thoroughly investigated in beginning readers until recently. The purpose of this study was to examine if orthographic knowledge influenced phonological processing in beginning readers and to establish a proof of concept for the use of eyetracking measures to examine these skills in young children.

Method – 22 participants, aged 6-7 years, completed norm-referenced assessments of language and reading ability as well as experimental measures of orthographic and phonological awareness while their eye movements were monitored.

Results – Participants processed orthographic information and accessed the constraints and regularities of the English orthography. They demonstrated not only orthographic awareness, but also orthographic sensitivity to varying orthotactic probabilities. This orthographic knowledge translated to the phonological task as the participants’ fixations and dwell time on the target images significantly differed according to the orthographic characteristics of the stimulus and target word pairs raw number of fixations and the raw dwell time significantly varied by condition for the phonological task.

Implications – Beginning readers area aware and sensitive to statistical regularities of English orthography. This orthographic knowledge influenced typically developing six-and seven-year-olds’ performance on phonemic awareness, but not to the extent seen in older children with and without reading and language impairments. Future studies should ascertain when orthography has a robust influence on TD beginning readers’ phonemic awareness.


© 2022, Emily Grace Fisher