Language context modulates reading route: an electrical neuroimaging study.

Bütler, Karin; de León Rodríguez, Diego; Laganaro, Marina; Müri, René Martin; Spierer, Lucas; Annoni, Jean-Marie (2014). Language context modulates reading route: an electrical neuroimaging study. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 8, p. 83. Frontiers Research Foundation 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00083

Buetler2014_FrontHumanNeuros.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution (CC-BY).

Download (926kB) | Preview


The orthographic depth hypothesis (Katz and Feldman, 1983) posits that different reading routes are engaged depending on the type of grapheme/phoneme correspondence of the language being read. Shallow orthographies with consistent grapheme/phoneme correspondences favor encoding via non-lexical pathways, where each grapheme is sequentially mapped to its corresponding phoneme. In contrast, deep orthographies with inconsistent grapheme/phoneme correspondences favor lexical pathways, where phonemes are retrieved from specialized memory structures. This hypothesis, however, lacks compelling empirical support. The aim of the present study was to investigate the impact of orthographic depth on reading route selection using a within-subject design.


We presented the same pseudowords (PWs) to highly proficient bilinguals and manipulated the orthographic depth of PW reading by embedding them among two separated German or French language contexts, implicating respectively, shallow or deep orthography. High density electroencephalography was recorded during the task.


The topography of the ERPs to identical PWs differed 300-360 ms post-stimulus onset when the PWs were read in different orthographic depth context, indicating distinct brain networks engaged in reading during this time window. The brain sources underlying these topographic effects were located within left inferior frontal (German > French), parietal (French > German) and cingular areas (German > French).


Reading in a shallow context favors non-lexical pathways, reflected in a stronger engagement of frontal phonological areas in the shallow versus the deep orthographic context. In contrast, reading PW in a deep orthographic context recruits less routine non-lexical pathways, reflected in a stronger engagement of visuo-attentional parietal areas in the deep versus shallow orthographic context. These collective results support a modulation of reading route by orthographic depth.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research > ARTORG Center - Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Head Organs and Neurology (DKNS) > Clinic of Neurology

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Bütler, Karin and Müri, René Martin


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Frontiers Research Foundation




Valentina Rossetti

Date Deposited:

13 Oct 2014 16:45

Last Modified:

12 Mar 2021 14:29

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

EEG, ERP, bilingual, dual-route model, grapheme-phoneme conversion, orthographic depth, pseudoword, reading




Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback