Evaluating the Missing-Letter Effect in Proficient Spanish-English Bilinguals
thesisposted on 01.05.2021, 00:00 by Cesar Enrique Riano Rincon
We used the letter-detection task to examine whether word processing is different in English and Spanish. In this task people read for comprehension while circling a target letter. The typical finding is that people miss more letters in function words than in content words, which is called the Missing Letter Effect (MLE). Bovee and Raney (2016) and Riano and Raney (2019) had non-proficient or proficient English-Spanish bilinguals, respectively, perform letter detection with English (target letter = t) and Spanish (target letter = l) passages. They found a large MLE for English and a small, reversed MLE (more letters missed in content than function words) for Spanish passages. Because different target letters can produce different error rates, we repeated their procedure using the target letter E for both English and Spanish. We found a large MLE for English (28%) passages and a very small MLE for Spanish (5%) passages that resulted from fewer errors on function words in Spanish than English passages. Our findings suggest that typical MLE found in English is not typical for Spanish. We suggest that because function words are gender marked in Spanish, they receive more attention, which leads to fewer letter detection errors.