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Poster A145

The neural associations between fingerspelling, print, and signs: An ERP study of deaf readers

Poster Session A - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Sofia E. Ortega1 (, Katherine J. Midgley1, Phillip J. Holcomb1, Karen Emmorey1, Brittany Lee2; 1San Diego State University, 2University of Connecticut

Fingerspelling ability is a leading predictor of reading skill in deaf readers who use American Sign Language (ASL). Fingerspelling provides an additional code for English orthography because fingerspelling handshapes represent English letters. However, the neural relationship between these different systems of orthographic representations remains relatively unexplored. We used event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate how fingerspelled words and ASL signs modulate priming effects for printed English words. Twenty-four skilled deaf adult readers completed a Go/No-Go semantic categorization task (press to animals) while viewing English word targets preceded by unmasked related and unrelated primes in one of three conditions: English words, ASL signs, or fingerspelled words. We anticipated similar N400 priming effects (reduced amplitude for target words with related vs unrelated primes) for fingerspelled and English word primes because of the orthographic overlap between English letters and fingerspelling handshapes. ASL signs were also expected to prime English words but perhaps with a later time-course than for fingerspelled words, due to the absence of orthographic overlap. Results were generally consistent with these predictions. There were strong N400 priming effects in all three conditions; however, effects were graded, with the largest priming effect in the English prime condition, followed by fingerspelled words and then signs. Importantly, these priming effects started earlier for fingerspelled and English prime words compared to signs. These findings highlight the unique relationship between fingerspelling and written English and underscore the importance of implementing fingerspelling literacy to promote skilled deaf readers.

Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Lexicon


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April 13–16  |  2024