This chapter discusses how children deal with the complexities in alphabetic writing systems. Many such systems include conditioned rules: One spelling of a phoneme is likely to occur in certain contexts and another spelling is more likely in other contexts. The chapter reviews research on how children learn about different types of conditioning. For example, it examines how the choice among potential spellings for a vowel is affected by the consonants in the syllable’s onset or coda or by the stress of the syllable and whether rhymes have a special status. Research shows that spellers have more difficulty in cases in which appeals to context don’t help—unconditioned inconsistencies—than with conditioned spellings. The chapter also considers how children consider morphology in deciding among possible spellings and how they deal with digraphs (two-letter spellings) and homography (cases in which a spelling represents more than one phoneme).
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