Skip to main content

Characteristics of developmental dyslexia in a regular writing system

  • Heinz Wimmer (a1)

The present study assessed reading difficulties and cognitive impairments of German-speaking dyslexic children at grade levels 2, 3, and 4. It was found that German dyslexic children suffered from a pervasive speed deficit for all types of reading tasks, including text, high frequency words, and pseudowords, but at the same time showed generally rather high reading accuracy. For pseudowords, reading refusals or word responses were absent, and the majority of errors was close to the target pronunciation. Reading speed seemed to be most impaired for pseudowords and function words that did not allow the children to take a short-cut from phonemically mediated word processing. The discussion offers a developmental framework for the interpretation of these reading difficulties. For the cognitive tasks, dyslexic children did not differ from age-matched control children on the pseudoword repetition task or the digit span task, indicating that auditory perception and memory were not impaired. On phonological awareness tasks (rhyme oddity detection, vowel substitution, and pseudoword spelling), dyslexic children scored lower than age-matched control children, but not lower than younger reading-level control children. The performance of the dyslexic children on the phonemic segmentation tasks (pseudoword spelling and vowel substitution) was high in absolute terms. In contrast, marked differences between dyslexic and age-matched controls were found on rapid naming tasks: dyslexic grade 4 children showed lower numeral-naming speed than reading-level grade 2 children. Numeral-naming speed turned out to be the most important predictor of reading speed differences. These findings are discussed in relation to the phonological impairment explanation of dyslexia and to recent alternative explanations that posit an underlying impairment in automatizing skills which demand the fast execution of low-level cognitive processes.

Corresponding author
University of Salzburg, Hellbrunnerstrasse 34, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria,
Hide All
Baddely A. D., Logie R. H., & Ellis N. C. (1988). Characteristics of developmental dyslexia. Cognition, 29, 127228.
Bishop D. V. M. (1985). Spelling ability in congenital dysarthria: Evidence against articulatory coding in translating between phonemes and graphemes. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 2, 229251.
Bowers P. G. (1989). Naming speed and phonological awareness: Independent contributorsto reading disabilities. In McCormick S. and Zutell J. (Eds.), Cognitive and socialperspectives for literacy research and instruction: 38th Yearbook of the National Reading ConferenceChicago:National Reading Conference. (pp. 165172).
Bowers P. G., & Swanson L. B. (1991). Naming speed deficits in reading disability: Multiplemeasures of a singular process. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 51, 195219.
Bowers P. G. & Wolf M. (1992). Theoretical links among naming speed, precise timingmechanisms, and orthographic skill in dyslexia. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Bradley L. & Bryant P. (1978). Difficulties in auditory organisation as a possible cause ofreading backwardness. Nature 271, 746747.
Bruck M. (1990a). Persistence of dyslexic children's phonological awareness deficits. Unpublished manuscript, McGill-Montreal Children's Hospital Learning Center.
Bruck M. (1990b). Word recognition skills of adults with childhood diagnoses of dyslexia. Developmental Psychology, 26, 439454.
Bruck M. & Treiman R. (1990). Phonological awareness and spelling in normal childrenand dyslexic children: The case of initial consonant clusters. Journal of ExperimentalChild Psychology, 50, 156178.
Bryant P. E. & Bradley L. (1985). Children's reading problems. Oxford: Blackwell.
Bryant P. E., MacLean M., Bradley L. & Crossland J. (1990). Rhyme and alliteration,phoneme detection and learning to read. Developmental Psychology, 26 429438.
Bryson S. E. & Werker J. F. (1989). Toward understanding the problems in severely disabledreaders: Part I. Vowel errors. Applied Psycholinguistics, 10, 112.
Cohen R. L. (1982). Individual differences in short-term memory. International Review of Research in Mental Retardation, 11, 377.
Coltheart M. (1978). Lexical access in simple reading tasks. In Underwood G. (Ed.), Strategies in information processing (pp. 151216). London: Academic.
Denckla M. B. & Rudel R. (1976). Rapid automatized naming (RAN): Dyslexia differentiated from other learning disabilities. Neuropsychologia, 14, 471479.
Ehri L. C & Wilce L. S. (1983). Development of word identification speed in skilled andless skilled beginning readers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 75,318.
Fowler C. A., Shankweiler D. & Liberman I. Y. (1979). Apprehending spelling patternsfor vowels: A developmental study. Language and Speech, 22, 243251.
Frith U. (1985). Beneath the surface of developmental dyslexia. In Patterson K. E., Marshall J. C. & Coltheart M. (Eds.), Surface dyslexia (pp. 301330). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Goswami U. (1986). Children's use of analogy in learning to read: A developmental study. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 42, 7383.
Goswami U. & Bryant P. (1990). Phonological skills and learning to read. Hove, U.K.:Erlbaum.
Jorm A. F. (1983). Determinants of individual differences in reading achievement. AustralianJournal of Psychology, 35, 163174.
Juel C. (1988). Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of 54 children from first tofourth grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 437447.
Landerl K., Linortner R. & Wimmer H. (1992). Phonologische Bewußtheit und Schrift-spracherwerb [Phonological awareness and reading acquisition]. Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie, 6(1), 1732.
Liberman I. Y., Shankweiler D., Liberman A. M., Fowler C. & Fischer F. W. (1977).Phonetic segmentation and recoding in the beginning reading. In Reber A. S. & Scarborough D.L. (Eds.), Towards a psychology of reading (pp. 207225). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Lovegrove W., Garcia R. P. & Nicholson S. B. (1990). Experimental evidence for a transient system deficit in specific reading disability. Journal of the American OptometricAssociation, 61, 137146.
Lovett M. W. (1987). A developmental approach to reading disability: Accuracy and speedcriteria of normal and deficient reading skill. Child Development, 58, 234260.
Manis F. R., Szeszulski P. A., Holt L. K. & Graves K. (1988). A developmental perspectiveon dyslexia subtypes. Annals of Dyslexia, 38, 139153.
Mann V. A. (1984). Longitudinal prediction and prevention of early reading difficulty. An-nals of Dyslexia, 34, 117136.
Mannhaupt G. & Jansen H. (1989). Phonologische BewuBtheit: Aufgabenentwicklung undLeistungen im Vorschulalter [Phonological awareness: Development of tasks andachievement in preschool children]. Heilpädagogische Forschung, 15, 5056.
Marshall J. C. (1984). Toward a rational taxonomy of developmental dyslexia. In Malatesha R. N. & Whitaker H. A. (Eds.), Dyslexia: A global issue. The Hague, Netherlands: Nijhoff.
Marshall J. C. & Newcombe F. (1973). Patterns of paralexia: A psycholinguistic approach. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 2, 175199.
Nicolson R. I. & Fawcett A. J. (1990). Automaticity: A new framework for dyslexia research. Cognition, 35, 159182.
Olson R., Wise B., Connors F. & Rack J. (1990). Organisation, heritability, and remediation of component word recognition and language skills in disabled readers. In Carr T. & Levy (Eds.), Reading and its development: Component skills approaches (pp. 261322). London: Academic.
Perfetti C. A., & Hughes C. (1987). Phonemic knowledge and learningto read are reciprocal: A longitudinal study of first grade children. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 33, 283319.
Pregel D. & Rickheit G. (1987). Der Wortschatz im Grundschulalter [The vocabulary inprimary school children]. Hildesheim: Olms.
Rack J. P., Snowling M. J. & Olson R. K. (1992). The nonword reading deficit in developmental dyslexia: A review. Reading Research Quarterly, 27 (1), 2953.
Rott C. & Zielinski W. (1986). Entwicklungsstufen der Lesefertigkeit in der Grundschule[Developmental stages of reading ability in primary school]. Zeitschrift fur Entwick-lungspsychologie und Padagogische Psychologie, 18, 165175.
Rozin P. & Gleitman L. R. (1977). The structure and acquisition of reading II: The readingprocess and the acquisition of the alphabetic principle. In Reber A. S. & Scarborough D. L. (Eds.), Toward a psychology of reading (pp. 55141). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Seidenberg M. S., Bruck M., Fornarolo G. & Backman J. (1985). Word recognition processes of poor and disabled readers: Do they necessarily differ? Applied Psycholin-guistics, 6, 161180.
Shankweiler D. & Liberman I. Y. (1972). Misreading: A search for causes. In Kavanagh J. F. & Mattingly (Eds.), Language by ear and by eye (pp. 293317). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Siegel L. S., & Ryan E. B. (1988). Development of grammatical sensitivity, phonological,and short-term memory skills in normally achieving and learning disabled children. Developmental Psychology, 24, 2837.
Snowling M. (1981). Phonemic deficits in developmental dyslexia. Psychological Research,43, 219234.
Snowling M. (1987). Dyslexia: A cognitive developmental perspective. Oxford: Black well.
Snowling M., Goulandris N., Bowlby M. & Howell P. (1986). Segmentation and speech perception in relation to reading skill: A developmental analysis. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 41, 489507.
Spring C. & Capps C. (1974). Encoding speed, rehearsal, and probed recall of dyslexic boys. Journal of Educational Psychology, 66,780786.
Spring C. & Davis J. (1988). Relations of digit naming speed with three components of reading. Applied Psycholinguistics, 9, 315334.
Stanovich K. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differencesin the acquisition of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 19, 278301.
Taylor H. C, Lean D. & Schwartz S. (1989). Pseudoword repetition ability in learning-disabled children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 10, 203219.
Torgesen J. & Houck D. (1980). Processing deficiencies in learning disabled children whoperform poorly on the digit span test. Journal of Educational Psychology, 72, 141160.
Treiman R., Goswami U. & Bruck M. (1990). Not all nonwords are alike: Implications forreading development and theory. Memory and Cognition, 18, 559567.
Venezky R. L. (1970). The structure of English orthography. The Hague: Mouton.
Wagner R. K., Torgesen J. K. (1987). The nature of phonological processing and its causalrule in the acquisition of reading skills. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 192212.
Wimmer H. & Frith U. (1991, September). Reading development in German and English children.Paper presented at the developmental conference of the British PsychologicalSociety,Cambridge.
Wimmer H. & Hummer P. (1990). How German speaking first graders read and spell:Doubt on the importance of the logographic stage. Applied Psycholinguistics, 11, 349368.
Wimmer H., Landerl K., Linortner R. & Hummer P. (1991). The relationship of phonemicawareness to reading acquisition: More consequence than precondition but still impor-tant. Cognition, 40, 219249.
Wimmer H., Zwicker T. & Gugg D. (1991). Schwierigkeiten beim Lesen und beimSchreiben in den ersten Schuljahren: Befunde zur Persistenz und Verursachung [Difficulties in reading and spelling during the first years of school: Findings concerningpersistence and causation]. Zeitschrift für Entwicklungspsychologie und Pädagogische Psychologie, 23, 280298.
Wolf M. (1991a). Naming and reading: The contribution of the cognitive neurosciences. Reading Research Quarterly, 26, 123140.
Wolf M. (1991b, 04). ‘Word-wraiths”: The unique contribution of the naming system to reading prediction and intervention in developmental dyslexia. Paper presented at the biennialmeeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, Washington.
Wolf M., Bally H. & Morris R. (1986). Automaticity, retrieval processes and reading: Alongitudinal study in average and impaired readers. Child Development, 57, 9881000.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
  • URL: /core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 112 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1348 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.