Perseverations, the inappropriate intrusion of elements from a previous response into a current response, are commonly observed in individuals with acquired deficits. This study specifically investigates the contribution of failure-to activate and failure-to-inhibit deficit(s) in the generation of letter perseveration errors in acquired dysgraphia. We provide evidence from the performance 12 dysgraphic individuals indicating that a failure to activate graphemes for a target word gives rise to letter perseveration errors. In addition, we also provide evidence that, in some individuals, a failure-to-inhibit deficit may also contribute to the production of perseveration errors.
letter perseveration errors; dysgraphia; spelling; inhibition
Most studies on spelling processes suppose that the activation of orthographic representations is over before we start to write. The goal of the present study was to provide evidence indicating that the orthographic representations activated during spelling production interact continuously with the motor processes during movement production. We manipulated gemination to assess the influence of the orthographic properties of words on the kinematic parameters of production. Native English-speaking participants wrote words containing double letters and control words on a digitizer [e.g., DISSIPATE (Geminate) and DISGRACE (Control)]. The word pairs shared the initial letters and differed on the presence of a doublet at the same position. The results revealed that latencies were shorter for Geminates than Controls, indicating that spelling processes were facilitated by the presence of a doublet in the word. Critically, the impact of letter doubling was also observed during production, with shorter letter durations (e.g., D, I, S) and intervals (DI, IS) for Geminates than Controls. Letter doubling therefore affected the whole process of word writing: from spelling recall to movement preparation and production. The spelling processes that were involved before movement initiation cascaded into processes that regulate movement execution. The activation spread onto peripheral processing until the production of the doublet was completely programmed (e.g., letter S).
double letters; handwriting; cascaded processing; spelling; central processing; peripheral processing
A case of pure dysgraphia is presented in which the patient could accurately copy letters which she could not write. The patient did not show any evidence of significant reading or speech impairment or any buccofacial or limb apraxia. Both oral and "block spelling" performance were intact. The writing impairment, which was bilateral, appeared to consist of a memory difficulty for the motor movements associated with letters. The dysgraphia was shown to be specific to letters as the patient was able to transcribe certain numbers and patterns which were similar to letters in their visuospatial complexity. It is suggested that dysgraphia for letters may represent a specific type of motor memory deficit, dissociable from copying skills and the ability to draw letter-like forms.
Behavioral and neuropsychological research in reading and spelling has provided evidence for the role of the following types of orthographic representations in letter writing: letter shapes, letter case, and abstract letter identities. We report on the results of an fMRI investigation designed to identify the neural substrates of these different representational types. Using an fMRI adaptation paradigm we examined the neural distribution of inhibition and release from inhibition in a letter-writing task in which, on every trial, participants produced three repetitions of the same letter and a fourth letter that was either identical to (no-change trial) or different from the previous three (change trial). Change trials involved a change in the shape, case, and/or identity of the letter. After delineating the general letter writing network by identifying areas that exhibited significant neural adaptation effects on no-change trials, we used deconvolution analysis to examine this network for effects of release from inhibition on change trials. In this way we identified regions specifically associated with the representation of letter shape (in the left SFS and SFG/pre-CG) and letter identity [in the left fusiform gyrus (FG)] or both [right cerebellum, left post-central gyrus (post-CG), and left middle frontal gyrus (MFG)]. No regions were associated with the representation of letter case. This study showcases an investigational approach that allows for the differentiation of the neurotopography of the representational types that are key to our ability to produce written language.
letter; writing; fMRI; fMRI adaptation; neural habituation; letter shape; letter identity; letter case
Accurate reading of words and text relies on reliable identification of letters in left to right order. Previous studies have shown that people often make letter-reversal errors when identifying strings of letters away from fixation. These errors contribute to a decline in letter identification performance away from fixation. This study tests the hypothesis that these errors are due to decreased precision (increased position noise) in the coding of letter position in the periphery. To test our hypothesis, we measured observers' performance for identifying pairs of adjacent letters presented within 8 letter positions left and right of fixation. The task was to name the two letters of each pair, from left to right. Responses were scored in two ways for each letter position: (1) letters were identified correctly and in the correct position, and (2) letters were identified correctly but in the wrong position. The ratio of these two scores, when subtracted from 1, gives the empirical rate of mislocation errors. Our primary finding shows that the coding of letter position becomes increasingly imprecise with distance from fixation. A model in which the encoded position of each letter is independent and Gaussian distributed, and in which the spread of the distribution governs the precision of localizing the letter accounts for the empirical rate of mislocation errors. We also found that precision of letter position coding scales with letter size but the precision does not improve with the use of a pre-cue.
Local signs; letter reversals; letter mislocations; crowding; letter identification; pattern vision
A phonological dysgraphic syndrome is documented in a left handed man with a right-hemisphere lesion. His spelling was significantly affected by word length but neither word frequency nor the orthographical irregularity or word class proved to be relevant variables. Words were spelled equally efficiently forwards as backwards. A clear gradient of letter errors was shown to exist with letters on the left being mis-spelled more often than letters on the right of a word, irrespective of word length. These findings are discussed in terms of current models of spelling and their relevance to theories of unilateral neglect.
The ability to identify letters and encode their position is a crucial step of the word recognition process. However and despite their word identification problem, the ability of dyslexic children to encode letter identity and letter-position within strings was not systematically investigated. This study aimed at filling this gap and further explored how letter identity and letter-position encoding is modulated by letter context in developmental dyslexia. For this purpose, a letter-string comparison task was administered to French dyslexic children and two chronological age (CA) and reading age (RA)-matched control groups. Children had to judge whether two successively and briefly presented four-letter strings were identical or different. Letter-position and letter identity were manipulated through the transposition (e.g., RTGM vs. RMGT) or substitution of two letters (e.g., TSHF vs. TGHD). Non-words, pseudo-words, and words were used as stimuli to investigate sub-lexical and lexical effects on letter encoding. Dyslexic children showed both substitution and transposition detection problems relative to CA-controls. A substitution advantage over transpositions was only found for words in dyslexic children whereas it extended to pseudo-words in RA-controls and to all type of items in CA-controls. Letters were better identified in the dyslexic group when belonging to orthographically familiar strings. Letter-position encoding was very impaired in dyslexic children who did not show any word context effect in contrast to CA-controls. Overall, the current findings point to a strong letter identity and letter-position encoding disorder in developmental dyslexia.
letter-string processing; letter-position encoding; letter-identity encoding; letter transposition; letter substitution; reading acquisition; dyslexic children
Spelling errors in the Wide Range Achievement Test were analyzed for 77 pairs of children, each of which included one older child with spelling disability (SD) and one spelling-level-matched younger child with normal spelling ability from the Colorado Learning Disabilities Research Center database. Spelling error analysis consisted of a percent graphotactic-accuracy (GA) score based on syllable position and existence in English, and a phonological accuracy score (PA). The SD group scored significantly worse in the PA measure, and non-significantly better than controls on the GA measure. The group by measure interaction was significant. Spelling matched pairs had very similar scores for word recognition and orthographic coding, but the SD group exhibited significant deficits in reading measures of phonological decoding and in language measures of phonological awareness.
A primary goal of working memory research has been to understand the mechanisms that permit working memory systems to effectively maintain the identity and order of the elements held in memory for sufficient time as to allow for their selection and transfer to subsequent processing stages. Based on the performance of two individuals with acquired dysgraphia affecting orthographic WM (the graphemic buffer) we present evidence of two distinct and dissociable functions of orthographic WM. One function is responsible for maintaining the temporal stability of letters held in orthographic WM, while the other is responsible for maintaining their representational distinctiveness. The failure to maintain temporal stability and representational distinctiveness give rise, respectively, to decay and interference effects that manifest themselves in distinctive error patterns, including distinct serial position effects. The findings we report have implications beyond our understanding of orthographic WM, as the need to maintain temporal stability and representational distinctiveness in WM is common across cognitive domains.
working memory; spelling; dysgraphia; orthographic representations
This study directly compared four patients who, to varying degrees, showed the characteristics of deep dyslexia, dysphasia and/or dysgraphia – i.e., they made semantic errors in oral reading, repetition and/or spelling to dictation. The “primary systems” hypothesis proposes that these different conditions result from severe impairment to a common phonological system, rather than damage to task-specific mechanisms (i.e. grapheme-phoneme conversion). By this view, deep dyslexic/dysphasic patients should show overlapping deficits but previous studies have not directly compared them. All four patients in the current study showed poor phonological production across different tasks, including repetition, reading aloud and spoken picture naming, in line with the primary systems hypothesis. They also showed severe deficits in tasks that required the manipulation of phonology, such as phoneme addition and deletion. Some of the characteristics of the deep syndromes – namely lexicality and imageability effects – were typically observed in all of the tasks, regardless of whether semantic errors occurred or not, suggesting that the patients’ phonological deficits impacted on repetition, reading aloud and spelling to dictation in similar ways. Differences between the syndromes were accounted for by variation in other primary systems – particularly auditory processing. Deep dysphasic symptoms occurred when the impact of phonological input on spoken output was disrupted or reduced, either as a result of auditory/phonological impairment, or for patients with good phonological input analysis, when repetition was delayed. ‘Deep’ disorders of reading aloud, repetition and spelling can therefore be explained in terms of damage to interacting primary systems such as phonology, semantics and vision, with phonology playing a critical role.
deep dyslexia; deep dysphasia; deep dysgraphia; reading; repetition; spelling
We examined the effects of letter transposition in Hebrew in three masked-priming experiments. Hebrew, like English has an alphabetic orthography where sequential and contiguous letter strings represent phonemes. However, being a Semitic language it has a non-concatenated morphology that is based on root derivations. Experiment 1 showed that transposed-letter (TL) root primes inhibited responses to targets derived from the non-transposed root letters, and that this inhibition was unrelated to relative root frequency. Experiment 2 replicated this result and showed that if the transposed letters of the root created a nonsense-root that had no lexical representation, then no inhibition and no facilitation were obtained. Finally, Experiment 3 demonstrated that in contrast to English, French, or Spanish, TL nonword primes did not facilitate recognition of targets, and when the root letters embedded in them consisted of a legal root morpheme, they produced inhibition. These results suggest that lexical space in alphabetic orthographies may be structured very differently in different languages if their morphological structure diverges qualitatively. In Hebrew, lexical space is organized according to root families rather than simple orthographic structure, so that all words derived from the same root are interconnected or clustered together, independent of overall orthographic similarity.
Morphology; Letter Transposition; Hebrew; Masked-Priming
Letter recognition is the foundation of the human reading system. Despite this, it tends to receive little attention in computational modelling of single word reading. Here we present a model that can be trained to recognise letters in various spatial transformations. When presented with degraded stimuli the model makes letter confusion errors that correlate with human confusability data. Analyses of the internal representations of the model suggest that a small set of learned visual feature detectors support the recognition of both upper case and lower case letters in various fonts and transformations. We postulated that a damaged version of the model might be expected to act in a similar manner to patients suffering from pure alexia. Summed error score generated from the model was found to be a very good predictor of the reading times of pure alexic patients, outperforming simple word length, and accounting for 47% of the variance. These findings are consistent with a hypothesis suggesting that impaired visual processing is a key to understanding the strong word-length effects found in pure alexic patients.
► We develop a connectionist letter recognition model which provides the link between visual input and letter recognition. ► The model can deal with the invariance problem and generalise to previously unseen letters. ► The model can extract key features for letter recognition. ► We demonstrate the model can simulate confusability effects in normal readers and predict PA patients' RTs. ► Impaired visual processing is a key to understanding the strong word-length effects found in PA patients.
Letter recognition; Letter confusability; Pure alexia; Computational modelling
A mixed methods approach, evaluating triple word form theory, was used to describe linguistic patterns of misspellings.
Spelling errors were taken from narrative and expository writing samples provided by 888 typically developing students in grades 1–9. Errors were coded by category (phonological, orthographic, and morphological) and specific linguistic feature affected. Grade level effects were analyzed with trend analysis. Qualitative analyses determined frequent error types and how use of specific linguistic features varied across grades.
Phonological, orthographic, and morphological errors were noted across all grades, but orthographic errors predominated. Linear trends revealed developmental shifts in error proportions for the orthographic and morphological categories between grades 4–5. Similar error types were noted across age groups but the nature of linguistic feature error changed with age.
Triple word-form theory was supported. By grade 1, orthographic errors predominated and phonological and morphological error patterns were evident. Morphological errors increased in relative frequency in older students, probably due to a combination of word-formation issues and vocabulary growth. These patterns suggest that normal spelling development reflects non-linear growth and that it takes a long time to develop a robust orthographic lexicon that coordinates phonology, orthography, and morphology and supports word-specific, conventional spelling.
Spelling; triple word form theory; spelling errors; non-linear development
THE GRADE WORKING GROUP IS DEVELOPING and evaluating a common, sensible approach to grading quality of evidence and strength of recommendations in health care. In this article, we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using letters, numbers, symbols or words to represent grades of evidence and recommendations. Using multiple strategies, we searched for comparative studies of alternative ways of representing ordered categories in any context. In addition, we contacted experts and reviewed theoretical work and qualitative research on how best to communicate grades of any kind quickly and clearly. We were unable to identify health care research that addressed, either directly or indirectly, the best way to present grades of evidence and recommendations. We found examples of symbols used by government, commercial and consumer organizations to communicate quality of evidence or strength of recommendations, but no comparative studies. Although a number of grading systems are used in health care and other fields, there is little or no evidence of how well various presentations are understood. Before promoting the use of specific symbols, numbers, letters or words, the extent to which the intended message is comprehended should be evaluated.
Experiment 1 investigated whether training subjects to read words aloud would induce correct written spelling of the words even though spelling had no experimental consequences. Training in reading was followed by a weak increment in correct spelling. Experiment 2 investigated whether overtraining in reading would improve spelling more. Spelling improved as overtraining continued until the subjects spelled all the words correctly. Experiments 3 and 4 investigated the components of overtraining responsible for this improvement in spelling. Initial training in reading followed by repeated opportunities to look at (but not say aloud) the printed words resulted in the same gradual improvement in spelling as seen in Experiment 2. The results were related to Skinner's theory of verbal behavior and to studies of the relationship between speaking and instruction-following in children.
verbal behavior; reading; spelling; children
The objective of this study is to determine which cognitive processes underlying spelling are most affected in the three variants of Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA): Logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia (lvPPA), Semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (svPPA), and Nonfluent variant primary progressive aphasia (nfvPPA).
23 PPA patients were administered The Johns Hopkins Dysgraphia Battery to assess spelling. Subtests evaluate for effects of word frequency, concreteness, word length, grammatical word class, lexicality (words vs. pseudowords), and “regularity” by controlling for the other variables. Significant effects of each variable were identified with chi square tests. Responses on all spelling to dictation tests were scored by error type. 16 of the 23 subjects also had a high resolution MRI brain scan to identify areas of atrophy.
We identified 4 patterns of spelling that could be explained by damage to one or more cognitive processes underlying spelling. Nine patients (3 unclassifiable, 4 with lvPPA, 2 with svPPA) had dysgraphia explicable by impaired access to lexical representations, with reliance on sublexical phonology-to-orthography conversion (POC). Two patients (with nfvPPA) showed dysgraphia explicable by impaired access to lexical representations and complete disruption of sublexical POC. Seven patients (4 with lvPPA, 1 with svPPA, 2 unclassifiable) showed dysgraphia explicable by impaired access to lexical-semantic representations and/or lexical representations with partially spared sublexical POC mechanisms. Five patients (1 with nfvPPA, 2 with svPPA, 1 with lvPPA, and 1 unclassifiable) showed dysgraphia explicable by impairment of the graphemic buffer.
Any cognitive process underlying spelling can be affected in PPA. Predominance of phonologically plausible errors, more accurate spelling of regular words than irregular words, and more accurate spelling of pseudowords than words (indicating spared POC mechanisms) may indicate a low probability of progression to nfvPPA.
Primary Progressive Aphasia; dysgraphia; spelling errors; neuroimaging; aphasia
Research in the cognitive and neural sciences has long posited a distinction between the long-term memory (LTM) storage of information and the short-term buffering of information that is being actively manipulated in working memory (WM). This basic type of distinction has been posited in a variety of domains, including written language production—spelling. In the domain of spelling, the primary source of empirical evidence regarding this distinction has been cognitive neuropsychological studies reporting deficits selectively affecting what the cognitive neuropsychological literature has referred to as the orthographic lexicon (LTM) or the graphemic buffer (WM). Recent papers have reexamined several of the hallmark characteristics of impairment affecting the graphemic buffer, with implications for our understanding of the nature of the orthographic LTM and WM systems. In this paper, we present a detailed case series study of 4 individuals with acquired spelling deficits and report evidence from both error types and factors influencing error rates that support the traditional distinction between these cognitive systems involved in spelling. In addition, we report evidence indicating possible interaction between these systems, which is consistent with a variety of recent findings in research on spelling.
Orthography; Spelling; Long-term memory; Working memory
We report patterns of dysgraphia in participants with primary progressive aphasia that can be explained by assuming disruption of one or more cognitive processes or representations in the complex process of spelling. These patterns are compared to those described in participants with focal lesions (stroke). Using structural imaging techniques, we found that damage to the left extrasylvian regions, including the uncinate, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, and sagittal stratum (including geniculostriate pathway and inferior longitudinal fasciculus), as well as other deep white and grey matter structures, was significantly associated with impairments in access to orthographic word forms and semantics (with reliance on phonology-to-orthography to produce a plausible spelling in the spelling to dictation task). These results contribute not only to our understanding of the patterns of dysgraphia following acquired brain damage but also the neural substrates underlying spelling.
dysgraphia; primary progressive aphasia; phonology; orthography; MRI
According to a dual-route model of written language processing, spelling of irregular words provides an index of the status of lexical spelling procedures, whereas nonword spelling provides information about non-lexical processing that relies on phoneme-grapheme conversion. Because regular words can be spelled using either route, accuracy for such words may reflect the combined function of the two routes, and may be mathematically predicted on the basis of spelling accuracy for irregular words and nonwords.
The purpose of the present study was to examine the application of a dual-route prediction equation, and a related multiple regression model, to evaluate pre-post treatment spelling performance of individuals with acquired alexia/agraphia.
Methods & Procedures
Eight individuals with language impairment due to left hemisphere damage received behavioral treatment to improve their written spelling. Their spelling performance was examined before and after treatment on untrained word lists with regular and irregular spellings, and pronounceable nonwords, and concurrence between predicted and observed spelling of regular words was evaluated.
Outcomes & Results
The group demonstrated significantly improved spelling performance after treatment, and the prediction equation and multiple regression model both accurately predicted regular word performance on the basis of irregular word and nonword scores. In addition, the multiple regression model provided potentially useful information about the relative contribution of the lexical and non-lexical routes to spelling performace.
The prediction equation and related multiple regression model used in this study can offer novel insight into the cognitive processes available to individuals with agraphia as well as provide a quantitative means to characterize response to treatment.
Aphasia; Alexia; Agraphia; Treatment; Rehabilitation
The question of how the brain encodes letter position in written words has
attracted increasing attention in recent years. A number of models have
recently been proposed to accommodate the fact that transposed-letter
stimuli like jugde or caniso
are perceptually very close to their base words.
Here we examined how letter position coding is attained in the tactile
modality via Braille reading. The idea is that Braille word recognition may
provide more serial processing than the visual modality, and this may
produce differences in the input coding schemes employed to encode letters
in written words. To that end, we conducted a lexical decision experiment
with adult Braille readers in which the pseudowords were created by
transposing/replacing two letters.
We found a word-frequency effect for words. In addition, unlike parallel
experiments in the visual modality, we failed to find any clear signs of
transposed-letter confusability effects. This dissociation highlights the
differences between modalities.
The present data argue against models of letter position coding that assume
that transposed-letter effects (in the visual modality) occur at a
relatively late, abstract locus.
Starting from the hypothesis that printed word identification initially involves the parallel mapping of visual features onto location-specific letter identities, we analyze the type of information that would be involved in optimally mapping this location-specific orthographic code onto a location-invariant lexical code. We assume that some intermediate level of coding exists between individual letters and whole words, and that this involves the representation of letter combinations. We then investigate the nature of this intermediate level of coding given the constraints of optimality. This intermediate level of coding is expected to compress data while retaining as much information as possible about word identity. Information conveyed by letters is a function of how much they constrain word identity and how visible they are. Optimization of this coding is a combination of minimizing resources (using the most compact representations) and maximizing information. We show that in a large proportion of cases, non-contiguous letter sequences contain more information than contiguous sequences, while at the same time requiring less precise coding. Moreover, we found that the best predictor of human performance in orthographic priming experiments was within-word ranking of conditional probabilities, rather than average conditional probabilities. We conclude that from an optimality perspective, readers learn to select certain contiguous and non-contiguous letter combinations as information that provides the best cue to word identity.
bigrams; visual word recognition; information; optimization
Two experiments investigated whether and how the learning of spellings by French third graders is influenced by two graphotactic patterns: consonants cannot double in word-initial position (Experiment 1) and consonants cannot double after single consonants (Experiment 2). Children silently read meaningful texts that contained three types of novel spellings: no doublet (e.g., mupile, guprane), doublet in a legal position (e.g., muppile, gupprane), and doublet in an illegal position (e.g., mmupile, guprrane). Orthographic learning was assessed with a task of spelling to dictation. In both experiments, children recalled items without doublets better than items with doublets. In Experiment 1, children recalled spellings with a doublet in illegal word-initial position better than spellings with a doublet in legal word-medial position, and almost all misspellings involved the omission of the doublet. The fact that the graphotactic violation in an item like mmupile was in the salient initial position may explain why children often remembered both the presence and the position of the doublet. In Experiment 2, children recalled non-words with a doublet before a single consonant (legal, e.g., gupprane) better than those with a doublet after a single consonant (illegal, e.g., guprrane). Omission of the doublet was the most frequent error for both types of items. Children also made some transposition errors on items with a doublet after a single consonant, recalling for example gupprane instead of guprrane. These results suggest that, when a doublet is in the hard-to-remember medial position, children sometimes remember that an item contains a doublet but not which letter is doubled. Their knowledge that double consonants can occur before but not after single consonants leads to transposition errors on items like guprrane. These results shed new light on the conditions under which children use general knowledge about the graphotactic patterns of their writing system to reconstruct spellings.
spelling; graphotacics; implicit learning; statistical learning; orthographic learning
The purpose of this study was to examine which emergent literacy skills contribute to preschool children’s emergent writing (name-writing, letter-writing, and spelling) skills. Emergent reading and writing tasks were administered to 296 preschool children aged 4–5 years. Print knowledge and letter-writing skills made positive contributions to name writing; whereas alphabet knowledge, print knowledge, and name writing made positive contributions to letter writing. Both name-writing and letter-writing skills made significant contributions to the prediction of spelling after controlling for age, parental education, print knowledge, phonological awareness, and letter-name and letter-sound knowledge; however, only letter-writing abilities made a significant unique contribution to the prediction of spelling when both letter-writing and name-writing skills were considered together. Name writing reflects knowledge of some letters rather than a broader knowledge of letters that may be needed to support early spelling. Children’s letter-writing skills may be a better indicator of children’s emergent literacy and developing spelling skills than are their name-writing skills at the end of the preschool year. Spelling is a developmentally complex skill beginning in preschool and includes letter writing and blending skills, print knowledge, and letter-name and letter-sound knowledge.
alphabet knowledge; emergent literacy; letter writing; name-writing; spelling
Recent research has shown that letter identity and letter position are not integral perceptual dimensions (e.g., jugde primes judge in word-recognition experiments). Most comprehensive computational models of visual word recognition (e.g., the interactive activation model, J. L. McClelland & D. E. Rumelhart, 1981, and its successors) assume that the position of each letter within a word is perfectly encoded. Thus, these models are unable to explain the presence of effects of letter transposition (trial-trail), letter migration (beard-bread), repeated letters (moose-mouse), or subset/superset effects (faulty-faculty). The authors extend R. Ratcliff's (1981) theory of order relations for encoding of letter positions and show that the model can successfully deal with these effects. The basic assumption is that letters in the visual stimulus have distributions over positions so that the representation of one letter will extend into adjacent letter positions. To test the model, the authors conducted a series of forced-choice perceptual identification experiments. The overlap model produced very good fits to the empirical data, and even a simplified 2-parameter model was capable of producing fits for 104 observed data points with a correlation coefficient of .91.
lexical process; letter position coding; word recognition; modeling; perceptual matching
In alphabetic orthographies, letter identification is a critical process during the recognition of visually presented words. In the present experiment, we examined whether and when visual form influences letter processing in two very distinct alphabets (Roman and Arabic). Disentangling visual versus abstract letter representations was possible because letters in the Roman alphabet may look visually similar/dissimilar in lowercase and uppercase forms (e.g., c-C vs. r-R) and letters in the Arabic alphabet may look visually similar/dissimilar, depending on their position within a word (e.g., vs. -). We employed a masked priming same–different matching task while ERPs were measured from individuals who had learned the two alphabets at an early age. Results revealed a prime–target relatedness effect dependent on visual form in early components (P/N150) and a more abstract relatedness effect in a later component (P300). Importantly, the pattern of data was remarkably similar in the two alphabets. Thus, these data offer empirical support for a universal (i.e., across alphabets) hierarchical account of letter processing in which the time course of letter processing in different scripts follows a similar trajectory from visual features to visual form independent of abstract representations.