Brett Kessler

Brett Kessler

​Research Scientist in Psychology, Associate Professor Emeritus in Arts & Sciences
PhD, Stanford University
MLS, Indiana University - Bloomington
MS, Indiana University - Bloomington
BA, Indiana University - Bloomington
View All People

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
  • CB 1125
  • One Brookings Drive
  • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
image of book cover

Professor Kessler currently studies psycholinguistics of reading and spelling. He is particularly interested in computational and statistical approaches to language, especially in the fields of phonology, historical linguistics, and the lexicon.​

Professor Kessler currently studies psycholinguistics of reading and spelling. He is particularly interested in computational and statistical approaches to language, especially in the fields of phonology, historical linguistics, and the lexicon. His research has also explored how to statistically test the historical connections between languages.

Selected Publications

  • Ashby, J., Treiman, R., Kessler, B., & Rayner, K. (2006). Vowel processing during silent reading: Evidence from eye movements. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 32, 416-424.
  • Bourassa, D. C., Treiman, R., & Kessler, B. (2006). Use of morphology in spelling by children with dyslexia and typically developing children. Memory & Cognition, 34, 703-714.
  • Hayes, H., Treiman, R., and Kessler, B. (2006). Children use vowels to help them spell consonants. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 94, 27-42.
  • Kessler, B., & Lehtonen, A. (2006). Multilateral comparison and significance testing of the Indo-Uralic question. In P. Forster & C. Renfrew (Eds.), Phylogenetic methods and the prehistory of languages, (33-42). Cambridge, England: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.
The Significance of Word Lists: Statistical Tests for Investigating Historical Connections Between Languages

The Significance of Word Lists: Statistical Tests for Investigating Historical Connections Between Languages

Similar words for similar concepts turn up in many widely scattered languages. Some linguists insist that this is simply due to chance while others claim that many if not all of the world’s languages descended from a single prehistoric language. Yet neither position in this strident controversy has been analyzed or supported with statistics. New computerized statistical techniques can help determine whether or not words in different languages have an ancestral connection. These flexible techniques are explained, broken into steps, and illustrated in a manner that provides the necessary principles to linguists with no background in statistics.

How Children Learn to Write Words

How Children Learn to Write Words

Writing allows people to convey information to others who are remote in time and space, vastly increasing the range over which people can cooperate and the amount they can learn. Mastering the writing system of one's language is crucial for success in a modern society. This book examines how children learn to write words. It provides a theoretical framework that integrates findings from a wide range of age groups--from children who are producing their first scribbles to experienced spellers who are writing complex words. To set the stage for these discussions, early chapters of the book consider the nature of writing systems and the nature of learning itself. The following chapters review various aspects of orthographic development, including the learning of symbol shapes and punctuation. Each chapter reviews research with learners of a variety of languages and writing systems, revealing underlying similarities. Discussions of how orthography is and should be taught are incorporated into each chapter, making the book of interest to educators as well as to psychologists, cognitive scientists, and linguists. This book is unique in the range of topics and languages that it covers and the degree to which it integrates linguistic insights about the nature of writing systems with discussions of how people learn to use these systems. It is written in a scholarly yet accessible manner, making it suited for a wide audience.