Phonological Processing Skills and Deficits in Adult Dyslexics

Bruce F. Pennington, Guy C. van Orden, Shelley D. Smith, Phyllis A. Green, Marshall M. Haith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

309 Scopus citations


This article presents 4 experiments aimed at defining the primary underlying phonological processing deficit(s) in adult dyslexia. 5 phonological processes, all involving spoken language, were studied: phoneme perception, phoneme awareness, lexical retrieval of phonology, articulatory speed, and phonetic coding in verbal short‐term memory. 2 differently ascertained adult dyslexic groups, familial dyslexics (n= 15) and clinic dyslexics (n= 15), were the subjects in each experiment. These dyslexic groups were chosen because deficits that persist until adulthood and that are found in differently ascertained dyslexic groups are more likely to be primary. Each dyslexic group was compared to 2 control groups, chronological age (CA) controls who were similar in age and sex, and younger reading age (RA) controls who were similar in reading age and sex. The main finding was a clear deficit in phoneme awareness in both dyslexic groups, with each dyslexic group performing significantly worse than both CA and RA controls. Moreover, performance on the 2 phoneme awareness tasks together uniquely accounted for substantial variance in nonword reading. The clinic but not the familial dyslexics appeared to have an additional deficit in verbal short‐term memory. No clear deficits were found in either dyslexic group in phoneme perception, lexical retrieval, or articulatory speed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1753-1778
Number of pages26
JournalChild development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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