5

Meaning and perception: semantic, lexical and haptic processing

Reading for comprehension in any system necessarily involves perceptual, phonological, semantic and cognitive skills. They include making inferences from the meaning of words and construing the gist of sentences and texts. The findings discussed in the previous chapters showed repeatedly that subsidiary processes do not occur in isolation from each other. The constituent factors relate in a complex, but intelligible, manner which is dictated to varying degrees of proficiency and by task demands and conditions. Even what is usually considered the most peripheral, perceptually 'given' input was found to depend on the progressive organization and differentiation of the functions of scanning movements for spatial guidance and reference, and for the verbal demands of different reading tasks, and these also influenced each other (Chapter 3). Similarly, phonological effects could not be described adequately by a simple hierarchy from touch to sound, except for very young beginners (Chapter 4), although even for beginners phonemic recoding and reliance on the sound of target words had to be distinguished. It seems progressively clear also that effects of word frequency and the precise demands and conditions of the task are important factors in performance. The present chapter focuses on meaning in the relation between lexical, semantic and perceptual factors.

The first two sections discuss issues in whether, and if so how, semantic processes affect the intake of perceptual information in reading for meaning. Factors that may increase legibility are obviously particularly important for braille. Legibility in braille can be thought of as having two main facets. One depends on an objective index of saliency. The other turns on facility of discrimination with experience.

Objective legibility in braille in the conventional format is specified by the height of braille dots, their spacing within patterns and the overall size. It is usual to use the conventional, standard braille format in teaching young children (Chapter 2). The dots are brailled on stiff 'braille' paper or plasticized brailon, and stand out in a relatively durable manner. But legibility also increases with proficiency (Chapters 2 and 3). Patterns that inexperienced people find impossible to identify are distinguished

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