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Orthography and the Development of Reading Processes: An Eye-Movement Study of Chinese and English


  • This study was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant 5R03HD051909-02 to the first author and by National Science Foundation Grant BCS 00-79973 to the second author.

concerning this article should be addressed to Gary Feng, Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, P.O. Box 90085, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708. Electronic mail may be sent to


As children become proficient readers, there are substantial changes in the eye movements that subserve reading. Some of these changes reflect universal developmental factors while others may be specific to a particular writing system. This study attempts to disentangle effects of universal and script-dependent factors by comparing the development of eye movements of English and Chinese speakers. Third-grade (English: mean age = 9.1 years, n = 23; Chinese: mean age = 9.4 years, n = 25), fifth-grade (English: mean age = 11.2 years, n = 30; Chinese: mean age = 11.4, n = 25), and undergraduate students (English: n = 26; Chinese: n = 30) read stories in their native language while their eye movements were recorded. Results show a mixture of orthography-dependent factors with others that are remarkably parallel across these two very different writing systems. Orthographic effects are also more pronounced for children than for skilled adult readers. Implications for theories of reading eye movements and reading development are discussed.