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How Children Learn to Write Words$
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Rebecca Treiman and Brett Kessler

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199907977

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199907977.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 12 April 2021

Symbol Shapes

Symbol Shapes

(p.152) Chapter 8 Symbol Shapes
How Children Learn to Write Words

Rebecca Treiman

Brett Kessler

Oxford University Press

In some writing systems, such as Korean, the shape of a letter provides a clue to its linguistic function. Usually, though, the relationship between a symbol of writing and the linguistic units that it represents is arbitrary. However, the shapes of letters and characters themselves are not arbitrary. They have been influenced by several principles, including economy, conservatism, beauty, expressiveness, similarity, contrast, and redundancy. Children learn from an early age about the shapes of writing symbols. This forces them to attend to certain visual details (e.g., left–right orientation in the case of the Latin script) that they have typically ignored. Children learn a good deal about letter shapes informally, but direct instruction in handwriting speeds the process. Corrective feedback plays an important role here, as in other aspects of learning. Learning to produce letters rapidly and automatically is an important foundation for the development of writing skill.

Keywords:   letter, character, left–right orientation, economy, conservatism, similarity, redundancy, contrast, handwriting, feedback, automaticity

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