Reading across languages

In 2022, I took up my old passion of cross-linguistic reading research again. I received funding from the DFG to conduct a study on single-word and pseudoword reading and spelling, involving 16 languages (for study proposal, see here).


During my PhD, I studied cognitive processes underlying skilled reading and reading acquisition in German and English. My PhD advisors were Dr. Eva Marinus, Prof. Anne Castles, and Prof. Max Coltheart. You can find the full text of my thesis, "Methodological and theoretical issues in cross-linguistic reading research" here, at the Macquarie University website.



Ms. Sara Chilson - Doctoral candidate

Ms. Viktoria Ruci - Medical doctoral candidate

Ms. Hanna Hampe - Study coordinator

Dr. Ines Anton-Mendez

Dr. Fabienne Chetail

Dr. Dusica Filipovic-Durdevic

Dr. Katarzyna Jednorog

Dr. Holger Juul

Dr. Azizuddin Khan

Dr. Anastasiya Lopukhina

Dr. Magdalena Luniewska

Dr. Kristina Moll

Ms. Elina Morina

Dr. Claudio Mulatti

Dr. Gabriela Seidlova-Malkova

Dr. Noam Siegelman

Dr. Paz Suarez-Coalla

Dr. Becky Treiman

Dr. Victor van Daal

Dr. Malin Wass


Schmalz, X., & Drobina, O. (preprint, 2022). Reading dysfluency in Russian-German biliterate

adults: Letter processing speed is a bottleneck.

In this side project, we start investigating whether reading in two different scripts poses special challenges to the reader, and if so, why.


Schmalz, X. (preprint, 2023). A response to “The myth of normal reading” by Huettig and 

Ferreira, or: To the defence of reading research….

In this commentary, I respond to a thought-providing article which points out some severe limitations of reading research. I respond to some of their criticism and propose some ways forward.



Schmalz, X., Marinus, E., Coltheart, M., & Anne, A. (2015). Getting to the bottom of

orthographic depth. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 22(6). 1614-1629. doi: 10.3758/s13423-015-0835-2. Fulltext here.

Here, we argue that orthographic depth is not a single construct, but consists of at least two separable components: The complexity of print-to-speech correspondences, and the unpredictability of words' pronunciations given the print-to-speech correspondences.


Schmalz, X., Robidoux, S., Castles, A., Coltheart, M., & Marinus, A. (2017). German and English

bodies: No evidence for cross-linguistic differences in preferred grain size. Collabra, 3(1). 5. doi: 10.1525/collabra.72. Fulltext here.

According to the Psycholinguistic Grain Size Theory (Ziegler & Goswami, 2005), orthographic depth shifts the reliance on sublexical units. English readers should show stronger reliance on larger sublexical units rather (e.g., bodies) than smaller units (e.g, graphemes). German readers should show the reverse pattern, because Graphemes in German are already very predictive of a word's pronunciation. In eight experiments, we did not find support for this prediction. Data and analysis scripts here.


Schmalz, X., Marinus, E., Robidoux, S., Palethorpe, S., Castles, A., & Coltheart, M. (2014).

Quantifying the reliance on different sublexical correspondences in German and English. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 26(8). doi: 10.1080/20445911.2014.968161. Fulltext here.

With a lot of input from Serje Robidoux, we implemented an optimisation procedure which could use participants' nonword responses to estimate the extent to which they relied on different print-to-speech correspondences: context-independent GPCs, context-dependent GPCs, or body-rime correspondences.


Schmalz, X., Beyersmann, E., Cavalli, E., & Marinus, E. (2016). Unpredictability and complexity

of print-to-speech correspondences increase reliance on lexical processes: More evidence for the Orthographic Depth Hypothesis. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 28(6). 658-672 doi: 10.1080/20445911.2016.1182172. Fulltext here.

Here, we tested whether GPC complexity and unpredictability have similar effects for skilled reading aloud. French speakers read aloud words which varied in frequency and complexity, and English native speakers read aloud words which varied in frequency and unpredictability. Both sources lead to an increase in the size of the frequency effect, suggesting that both affect skilled reading processes by slowing down the sublexical route, allowing for more influence of the lexical route. Data and analysis scripts here.


Schmalz, X., Porshnev, A., & Marinus, E. (2017). Two distinct parsing stages in nonword

reading aloud: Evidence from Russian. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70(12). 2548-2559doi:10.1080/17470218.2016.1247895. Fulltext here.

We report a "whammy" effect in Russian: when the context of a grapheme-phoneme correspondence changes its pronunciation, nonword reading aloud latencies are slower compared to nonwords where all letters have a default pronunciation. Inserting visual disruptors did not interact with the presence or absence of a context-sensitive rule, suggesting that these two manipulations reflect independent processes. Data and analysis scripts here. Data and analysis scripts here.


Schmalz, X., de Simone, E., & Mulatti, C. (preprint). Rules and statistics in Italian. Preprint, data

and analysis script here

We find neither a "Whammy" effect nor a grapheme consistency effect in Italian. A visual disruptor affects the processing of context-sensitive rules, but not when the rule is phonotactic, i.e., relies on phonetic rather than phonological features.