The big things that make a small difference
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Previous research has indicated that native and non native English speakers do not respond to semantics and phonology in the same way when processing words (Forrester, 2009; Marian, Blumfeld and Boukrina 2008; Ruschemeyer, Nojack and Limbach, 2008). The present study used a word change detection task to investigate the effects of semantics and phonology on native and non-native speakers, in a mixed counterbalanced design, on the processing of words during reading. Participants were instructed to detect possible word changes across two consecutive presentations of short texts. The results suggest that for native speakers but not non-native speakers, close semantic changes were significantly less likely to be detected than distant changes. For non-native but not for native speakers, however, close phonological changes were significantly less likely to be detected than distant changes. The findings are not consistent with the theory that native English speakers are always more efficient readers than non native speakers (Clahsen and Felser, 2006; Silva and Clahsen, 2009; Ullman, 2005). The results do, however, provide support for the theory that age of language acquisition and linguistic experience are likely to affect the ways in which English speakers process and represent words during reading.