Dr. Katarzyna Patro-Nürk
2020-2022, Directional conventions of a written language: developmental mechanisms of acquisition, funded by the DFG, https://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/436497993
An objective of the project is to examine mechanisms behind the acquisition of a cultural direction of reading and writing (e.g., left-to-right in Western cultures). Previous studies have shown that already preschool children start organizing their first trials to read and write in line with cultural directional conventions. This process begins in the preschool period, until directional habits become finally stable and systematic at the beginning of school. However, the mechanisms which trigger the process of directionality acquisition in this early period of a child’s life, have not yet been systematically examined. In this project, I propose and test three such potential mechanisms. According to these mechanisms, children may acquire script directionality (i) by exposure to print referencing behaviour of literate adults (e.g., tracing text while reading to children), (ii) by exposure to physical characteristics of print (e.g., orientation of individual letters); (iii) by exposure to spatial behaviour of literate adults beyond the domain of reading and writing (e.g., ordering objects in line with cultural direction). Each mechanism is examined in one of three experimental studies with preschool children. All three studies are based on the same experimental paradigm of artificial language learning. The knowledge gained through this line of research may enrich our understanding of cognitive processes guiding our literacy skills and processing spatial-directional information. Besides that, the obtained findings may become relevant for educational practices for reading acquisition and instruction, because functional spatial-directional processing is necessary for using a spatial-directional script.