Learning to read any language requires learning to map among print, sound and meaning. Writing systems differ in a number of factors that influence both the ease and rate with which reading skill can be acquired, as well as the eventual division of labor between phonological and semantic processes. Further, developmental reading disability manifests differently across writing systems, and may be related to different deficits in constitutive processes. Here we simulate some aspects of reading acquisition in Chinese and English using the same model architecture for both writing systems. The contribution of semantic and phonological processing to literacy acquisition in the two languages is simulated, including specific effects of phonological and semantic deficits. Further, we demonstrate that similar patterns of performance are observed when the same model is trained on both Chinese and English as an "early bilingual." The results are consistent with the view that reading skill is acquired by the application of statistical learning rules to mappings among print, sound and meaning, and that differences in the typical and disordered acquisition of reading skill between writing systems are driven by differences in the statistical patterns of the writing systems themselves, rather than differences in cognitive architecture of the learner.
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