Visual Recognition of Graphic Variants of Amharic Letters: Psycholinguistic Experiments


  • Feda Negesse ILOS, University of Oslo
  • Derib Ado



One of the problems of Amharic orthography is a lack of consistency where the four Amharic sounds (/h/, /ʔ/, /s/ and /s’/) are mapped onto more than a single letter. The objective of these psychological experiments was to investigate the visual recognition of the graphic variants of the letters, both in isolation and within words. The experiments involved computation of the frequency counts of the letters in the Ten Ten Corpus for Amharic and the result revealed that there is a clear pattern of preference for the letters: the letters representing /h/ had the pattern <ሀ> <ሐ> <ኀ> , the letters representing /ʔ/ had the pattern <አ> <ዐ> , the letters representing /s/ had the pattern <ሰ> <ሠ> , and the letters representing /s’/ had the pattern <ጸ> <ፀ> in descending order of frequency. Similarly, the experiments indicated that frequency counts are significantly related to visual recognition of a letter, with the more frequent letters recognized faster with fewer errors. It was also observed that the target letters were recognized with a shorter reaction time when they were paired with themselves, but the recognition time was longer when they occurred with their graphic variants. Moreover, significantly higher percentage of errors were made when the target letters were matched with their graphic variants or their distractors in the alphabet recognition task. Similar patterns were also observed in the lexical decision task when the target letters were presented in words and pseudo-words. More rigorous psycholinguistic experiments, which will involve a large number of participants, are recommended to validate the results of the current experiments.

Author Biography

Feda Negesse, ILOS, University of Oslo

Researcher, Russian linguistics