PhD & Post-doc Projects

Grapheme-to-phoneme conversion in first and second language reading aloud

EEG1PhD student: Kalinka Timmer
Supervisors: Niels O. Schiller

I combine the fields of Psychology with Linguistics and the research methods that give us the opportunity to understand what happens in the brain (e.g. electroencephalography: EEG).

My research interests are in the process of reading aloud, specifically the conversion of printed text ('orthography') into sounds ('phonology'). The use of EEG in addition to speech onset measures (RTs) to study reading aloud, gives the opportunity to look at processes before speech output.


I am interested in the similarities and differences in reading aloud of languages in this world (e.g. Dutch, English, Persian, Russian, and Spanish). The Persian language has the interesting feature that 3 out of 6 vowels are not written. These words are read slower than words where all the vowels are written, because for the former you need to know the meaning of the word before you can pronounce it. However, EEG reveals that the early processes of both word types are the same. Another interest of mine is bilingualism. I have found that Dutch natives with English as a second language are very similar to native speakers of English in terms of converting written text into speech. In another experiment Dutch natives read Dutch words aloud (e.g. KNOOP) very briefly preceded by an English word (e.g. 'knee') that was not consciously perceived. Even thought they were in a monolingual Dutch environment, they still read the English word as an English word (pronouncing 'knee' with /n/) and not as a Dutch nonword (pronouncing 'knee' with /kn/). This suggests that not only a person's primary language (Dutch, in this case) can influence his secondary language (English), but that the opposite is also possible.