This study examines orthographic sensitivity among adult second language (L2) learners with diverse first language (L1) backgrounds. The specific purposes are three-fold: (a) to determine whether there are differences among adult learners of English as a second language (ESL) with alphabetic and non-alphabetic L1 backgrounds in their intraword structural sensitivity, (b) to explore specific ways in which such sensitivity differs among L1 and L2 readers of English, and (c) to examine the extent to which the sensitivity affects decoding performance among ESL participants. The findings suggest that (a) L1 alphabetic experience promotes L2 intraword structural sensitivity; (b) ESL learners, regardless of their L1 backgrounds, are strongly inclined to use visual familiarity as a primary cue during orthographic processing; (c) the ability to detect orthographic constraint violations separates L2 from L1 readers; and (d) qualitative differences in L1 processing experience are directly associated with procedural variations in L2 decoding, but such variations do not always result in quantitative differences in decoding performance.
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