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Colloquium: Robert Englebretson

November 8, 2019, 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Linguistics Department Colloquium:

Robert Englebretson (Rice University)

Why Braille is not a Tactile ‘Code’ for Visual Print: Evidence from Sublexical Structure

Previous research has overwhelmingly demonstrated that fluent reading (of visual print) relies heavily on the unconscious visual recognition of units larger than single letters and smaller than whole words. Sighted readers automatically chunk groups of letters into complex graphemes as a by-product of gestalt principles of visual organization; and sighted readers quickly and unconsciously parse whole words into their component morphemes, independent of word meaning, based largely on the parallel processing of letters that the visual system enables. However, until recently (Fischer-Baum and Englebretson, 2016) the role of sublexical structure in facilitating braille reading, which relies exclusively on the tactile rather than the visual modality, has not been investigated. This talk summarizes our ongoing work in this area. Our experimental evidence demonstrates that adult readers of English braille do indeed access sublexical structure—namely the processing of digraphs as single orthographic units and the recognition of morphemes within morphologically complex words. I will also briefly present some preliminary findings of a study of braille writing errors that likewise bear on this issue. This talk reviews our findings, discusses their consequences for our understanding of braille as a writing system, and suggests potential consequences for braille pedagogy and development.

Fischer-Baum, S., & Englebretson, R. (2016). “Orthographic units in the absence of visual processing: Evidence from sublexical structure in braille.” Cognition, 153, 161-174.


November 8, 2019
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Event Category:


Holton 190