Consonants and vowels in orthographic representations

Adam Buchwald, Brenda Rapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


It has been argued that orthographic representations - the abstract mental representations of the spellings of words - include orthography-specific information regarding the consonant/vowel (CV) identity of the individual letters that make up a word's spelling. This hypothesis has been used to explain the finding that the substitution errors in the spelling of certain dysgraphic individuals exhibit a striking tendency to preserve the CV identity of the target letters. In this paper, we evaluate the adequacy of two alternative hypotheses that do not posit orthography-specific CV representations. One hypothesis proposes that constraints on the nature of letter substitution come from the phonological representation of a word, and a second hypothesis contends that CV-preserving substitutions are driven by orthotactic knowledge - knowledge of the well-formed letter sequences in the orthography of a language. We present novel tests of these hypotheses using data from four case studies of dysgraphic individuals. The results clearly adjudicate in favour of the claim that orthographic representations contain orthography-specific CV information. In this way, the results support the more general claim that abstract categories are represented within the language system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-337
Number of pages30
JournalCognitive neuropsychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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