Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 17: 1–6, 2004.
© 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
and PRAKASH PADAKANNAYA
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA;
University of Mysore, Mysore, India
Empirical research and theoretical models of the reading process have
developed largely from studies of readers of alphabetic scripts, most notably
English, it being assumed that the ﬁndings would generalize to readers of
other languages. Over the past two decades, this assumption has been directly
put to the test in cross-linguistic comparisons of reading and writing in native
and non-native reading contexts. As a result of these new investigations, it has
become possible to examine under what circumstances structural aspects of a
language or of language experience differentially affect reading processes.
By now a considerable body of cross-linguistic research has accumulated.
Anthologies of this work have also appeared (e.g., Leong & Tamaoka, 1998).
There are several comparative studies of English with readers of more regular
alphabetic scripts such as Spanish, German, Italian, and Portuguese. Studies
of non-Roman alphabetic scripts, most notably Serbo-Croatian and Hebrew,
are also numerous. Studies of non-alphabetic scripts have also appeared in
great numbers, speciﬁcally, studies of readers of Chinese. Far less research
has examined syllabic scripts and hardly any research has appeared on scripts
that have aspects of a syllabary and an alphabet, such as Korean Hangul or
any of the Indic scripts (see Salomon, 2000; Vaid & Gupta, 2002).
The primary goal of this special issue of Reading and Writing was to fore-
ground research on this hybrid class of scripts described by different scholars
as alphasyllabaries, augmented consonantal scripts, or semi-syllabic scripts.
These scripts are worthy of study for several reasons. One is simply that users
of these scripts constitute a sizeable proportion of the world’s population, thus
for practical reasons alone it is important to develop a body of normative data
on reading acquisition, processing and impairment in such users. Secondly,
the study of users of semi-syllabic scripts is important because it allows one to
compare the relative strength of inﬂuence of structural properties commonly
associated with alphabetic scripts (e.g., linearity, phonemic prominence) with
that of properties associated with syllabic scripts (e.g., non-linearity, syllable
What does the existing empirical research on users of semi-syllabic
scripts suggest? One study reported that there is less reliance on phonolo-