Virginia A. Mann

picture of Virginia A. Mann

Professor, Linguistics
School of Social Sciences
Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research 1997-2004
School of Social Sciences
HABLA, founded in 2000, Cognitive Sciences
School of Social Sciences
UCI Jumpstart, founded 2003, Cognitive Sciences
School of Social Sciences

PH.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1977, Psychology

S.B., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Interdisciplinary Sciences

Fax: (949) 824-2307

University of California, Irvine
Dept. Language Science
SS7 531
3151 Social Science Plaza
Mail Code: 5100
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
reading ability: phoneme awareness, developmental dyslexia, phonological skills, early intervention, precocious readersspeech perception: context effects, cross-linguistic comparisons,
Academic Distinctions
Fulbright Fellow, Yoikuin Fellow, Hartman Award, International Reading Association Award

Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research for the School of Social Sciences
Director, HABLA
Program Director, UCI Jumpstart
Research Associate, Haskins Laboratories, Yale, CT (NSF and NIH funding)
Research Abstract
My research focuses on the development of reading ability and the perception of speech and involves undergraduate and graduate students as well as colleagues here and abroad. I am the director of an outreach program, HABLA, that seeks to promote school readiness through language-based interventions in the homes of over 350 socioeconomically and educationally disadvantaged preschoolers. I am also director of an outreach program, UCI Jumpstart, that is part of a national system for increasing English skills through college student mentoring of children in an after preschool program. To date both programs have been able to keep the primary language skills of disadvantaged Latino children within normal levels where scores of untreated peers drop one or more standard errors below normal. I am also a consultant for Scientific Learning, a software company that incorporates scientific research into computer-based training programs that promote language and reading. I have helped to create some of their recent products for the assessment and improvement of reading, Reading Edge and the award-winning Fastforward Reading series. For details on these, see:

Reading Edge
Fastforward Reading

My studies of reading attempt to characterize the inborn cognitive skills and the home and school experiences that work to support successful reading acquisition. For over twenty-five years I have studied how reading ability depends upon the integrity of certain spoken language capacities, particularly the 'phonological skills' by which the child perceives, remembers and manipulates the sounds of language. My stress upon the importance of phonological skills is particularly consonant with the current state of renewed emphasis on phonics-type methods of instruction for it shows that a key step in the child's realization of how an alphabetic writing system works as a representation of language is the realization that letters represent the sound patterns of language. With other colleagues, most notably Isabelle Liberman, I have also shown that phoneme awareness and phonological processing not only accompany present differences in reading ability, they actually presage them and can be successfully used a screening devices. With Judy Foy I am currently showing how many of the phonological abilities that we have found to distinguish good and poor readers (See Mann, 1998 for a review) can be approached before children enter school. With Joshua Ramirez I am studying the aural and visual speech processing skills of older dyslexic individuals to see whether the deficiencies can best be represented as auditory or phonological. My research strategy has encompassed studies of young children in America, Japan and most recently Germany (Mann and Wimmer, 2002) to determine how phonological awareness relates to cultural and educational experience as well as to spoken language and cognitive development. Some of my most recent work has involved studies of preschool literacy and phonological development in collablration with Prof. Judy Foy. My research on reading has turned to the role of morpheme awareness in older children's reading of complex words like 'healthy' and 'atomical'. With Maria Singson and Diana Mahony (see Mann, 2000), I have shown that at the same ages where the relation between phoneme awareness and reading becomes less intense, the relation between morpheme awareness increases.

In studying human speech perception, I have sought with Al Liberman and other colleagues to characterize how listeners recover phonemes from the acoustic waveforms and visual input that make up speech signals. I have worked most extensively on context effects, cases where the perception of a phoneme is effected by a part of the waveform or visual signal that would normally be associated with another phoneme. For example, in perceiving the sound 's', listeners make use of information in a following vowel, whether that vowel is heard or seen. In perceiving 'g' they make use of information in a preceding 'l' or 'r', whether the information is heard or seen (Fowler, Brown and Mann, 2000) and even Japanese perceivers are sensitive to this effect (Mann, 1987). We are using these effects to illustrate speech perception and its development that distinguishes universal "articulation recovery" processes from language specific "phonological" ones. With Miles Munro I am also re-opening the question of critical periods in the formation of second language accents and in the perception of accentedness, by looking at a continuous range of emersion age instead of arbitrary cuts.

Patents have been granted for a series of innovations associated with the Fastforward Reading series.
Ramirez, J. and Mann, V. A. (2005) Using auditory-visual integration to probe the basis of noise-impaired speech perception in reading disability and auditory neuropathy J. Acoust. Soc. of Am, 118,122-133.
Munro, M. and Mann, V. A. ( 2005) Age of Immersion as a Predictor of Foreign Accent. Applied Psycholinguistics, 26, 311-341.
Mann, V. and Foy, J. G. (2003) Speech Development, Phonological Awareness, and Letter
Knowledge in Preschool Children Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 149-173.
Foy, J. G. and Mann, V. A. (2003) Home literacy environment and phonological awareness in preschool children: differential effects for rhyme and phoneme awareness. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24, 59-88.
Mann, V. A. (2003 Language Processes: Keys to Reading Disability. In H. L. Swanson, K.
R. Harris and S. Graham (Eds.) Handbook of Learning Disabilities (pp. 213-228). New York:
Guilford Press.
Foy, J. G. and Mann, V. (2001) Does strength of phonological representations predict phonological awareness? Applied Psycholinguistics, 22, 301-325.
Mann, V. A. and Singson, M. (2003) The little suffix that could: linking morphological knowledge to English decoding ability. To appear in E. Assink & D. Sandra (Eds.) Morphology and Reading: a cross- linguistic Perspective. Amsterdam: Kluver Publishers.
Mann, V. A. (1986) Distinguishing universal language-specific factors in speech perception: Evidence from Japanese listeners' perception of /1/and /r/. Cognition, 24, 169-196.
Mann, V. A. and Foy, J. (2007) Speech development patterns and Phonological awareness in preschool children. Annals of Dyslexia, 57, 51-74.
Mann, V. A. (1998) Language problems: A key to early reading problems. In B. Wong (ed.) Learning about Learning disabilities, 2nd Ed. (pp. 163-202). Chicago.
Mann, V. A. (2002) Reading Disorders, Developmental. In V. S. Ramachandran (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of the Human Brain (pp.141-154). San Diego: Academic Press.
Mann, V. A. (2000) Morphology and the acquisition of alphabetic writing systems. Reading and Writing.(Guest editor, Special Issue)
Foy, J. G. and Mann, V. (2001) Does strength of phonological representations predict phonological awareness? Applied Psycholinguistics, 22, 301-325.
Mann, V. A. (2002) Reading Disorders, Developmental. In V. S. Ramachandran (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of the Human Brain (pp. 00-00). San Diego: Academic Press.
Mann, V. and Wimmer, H. (2002) Phoneme awareness and pathways into literacy: A comparison of German and American children. Reading and Writing
Arendal, L. and Mann, V. (2000) Fast ForWord Reading: Why it Works. Berkeley, CA: Scientific
Learning Corporation.
Mann, V. A., and Liberman, A. M. (1983) Some differences between phonetic and auditory modes of perception. Cognition, 14, 211 235.
Mann, V. A., and Liberman, I. Y. (1984) Phonological awareness and verbal short term memory: Can they presage early reading problems? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 17, 592 599.
Mann, V. A. (1986) Phonological Awareness: The Role of Reading Experience. Cognition, 24, 65 92. Also published under the same title in: P. Bertelson (Ed.) The Onset of Literacy, 1987. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
NIH funding CFCOC funding
Professional Societies
Acoustical Society of America
Society for Scientific Study of Reading
International Association for Research on Learning Disabilities
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