Steve Long Salinas17 at AOL.COM
Wed Mar 21 14:27:04 UTC 2001

In a message dated 3/21/2001 12:40:16 AM, dparvaz at UNM.EDU writes:

<< So why no dyslexia? I can't speak to the cognitive issues, since I'm not
sure what effect an alphabetic script has on processing and working
memory. I'm pretty sure that letter inversions of the "b/d" variety
couldn't happen, since no such pairs exist in Perso-Arabic script (the
"alef" is mirror-symmetric, so confusing that is not much of a problem :-)
With writing, there are the issues of homophonous letters, and in reading,
there are potential difficulties in getting the right short vowels.

So my question for the Iranian(s?) on funknet is this: would a kid
exhibiting the processing/memory symptoms of dyslexia be labelled as
"dyslexic", or simply learning-disabled (worse yet, "aghab-oftadeh")?

My question for Dan Slobin: with deaf kids who are learning some kind of
graphic notation system (e.g., SignWriting), are there cases of kids with
dyslexia mixing up, say, agents and patients in agreement verbs? >>

FYI, here's an edited blurb on the study mentioned in the original post.  It
seems to indicate that the dyslexia "emerges" as a problem due to the
predictability of correspondence between symbol and sound.  Potential
dyslexics are stated to have been identified physiologically.  Behavioral
dyslexia produced the variance according to language groups.

<<Study: English a Factor in Dyslexia

WASHINGTON (March 15) - When English-speaking children with dyslexia begin to
read, they face the awesome task of learning more than 1,100 ways that
letters in the written language are used to symbolize the 40 sounds in the
spoken language.

This may explain why there are twice as many identified dyslexics in
English-speaking cultures as in countries with less complex languages,
according to a study appearing Friday in the journal Science.

The study by an international team compared the brain scan images and reading
skills of dyslexic university students in Italy, France and England.

The researchers found virtually no difference in the neurological signature
for dyslexia, but there was an immense difference in how well the students
learned to read their native languages.

``It is much easier for dyslexics to learn to read in languages where there
is a one-to-one relationship between a letters and the sounds,'' said Chris
D. Frith, a researcher at the University College London and a co-author of
the study. ``In English, there are more than a thousand ways to spell the

In Italian, dyslexic students have a far easier time. The 33 sounds in
Italian are spelled with only 25 letters or letter combinations.

The researchers noted that identified dyslexics are rare in Italy because the
language helps learning readers to quickly overcome problems caused by the
disorder. To find dyslexics among Italian university students, the researcher
had to conduct special tests to identify those with the neurological
signature for the disorder.

Experts have estimated that between 5 percent and 15 percent of Americans
have some degree of dyslexia.  Dyslexia involves a brain structure that makes
it difficult for a learning reader to connect verbal sounds with the letters
or symbols that ``spell'' that sound. Such connections are essential to learn
to read.

In the study, researchers found that English, French and Italian dyslexics
did equally poorly in tests based on the short-term memory of verbal sounds,
a key measure for the disorder. Yet the Italians were far better at reading
their native language than were the English and French students.

The students were then put through a series of reading exams using positron
emission tomography to measure and image blood flow in specific parts of the
brain, an indication of neurological activity. All of the students had the
same deficits in the left temporal lobe of the brain while performing reading

``Although Italian dyslexics read more accurately than French or English
dyslexics, they showed the same degree of impairment'' in the brain image,
the study found.

This suggests, the researchers said, that it is the language difference alone
that makes it more difficult for English-speaking dyslexics to learn how to

``The complexity of the English and French written languages stems from
historical events that have introduced spellings from other languages, while,
in comparison, Italian has remained quite pure,'' said Eraldo Paulesu of the
University of Milan Bicocca, the lead author of the study.

In English, many words share the same letter combinations, but involve
different sounds when spoken. For example: mint and pint; cough and bough,
and clove and love. In French, the complexity stems from different letter
combinations that ``spell'' the same or similar sound, such as ``au temps''
(at the time) and ``autant'' (as much, or so much).

Firth said that Spanish, Finnish and Czech are ``dyslexia friendly''
languages because they lack the sound-spelling complexity of English and
French. Japanese, he said, is also easier for children learning to read
because of its consistency of sounds and symbols.>>

Steve Long

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