Reading compounds in neglect dyslexia: the headedness effect
Reading compound words was studied in neglect dyslexia in order to assess the influence of ‘headedness’. The ‘head’ of a compound is the component that determines the grammatical category, the syntactic (e.g., the gender) and the semantic properties of the compound as a whole. For example, in the word ‘blackberry’ berry is the compound’s head. The question was addressed of whether or not the privileged status of the head constituent influences processing and determines behavioural patterns in the breakdown of spatial attention in neglect. Italian right-headed (e.g. capobanda, band leader) and left-headed compounds (e.g. astronave, spaceship) were administered to 18 participants affected by neglect dyslexia. Left-headed compounds were read better than right-headed compounds. This result was not due to factors such as frequency, familiarity, age of acquisition or imageability, since these effects were controlled. It is suggested that attention is captured by the head component after implicit reading of the whole word. The head would require a relatively lighter processing load than the modifier and benefit from top-down facilitation.