In this chapter and the following one, I turn to omission errors. These are errors in which children fail to represent a phoneme in their spelling. I ask which phonemes children tend to omit and why. This chapter focuses on omissions of vowels, while Chapter 8 considers omission errors on consonants. Also included in Chapter 8 is a comparison of vowel omission errors and consonant omission errors. The study of vowel omissions takes on particular importance in light of the claim that beginning spellers are particularly likely to omit vowels (Ehri, 1986; Morris & Perney, 1984). For example, Morris and Perney (1984) state that semiphonetic spellers often produce spellings like M or ML for mail, omitting the middle vowels of one-syllable words. Not until the phonetic stage, they say, do vowels begin to appear in children’s spellings of such words. Do children omit the vowel of mail because the phoneme is in the middle of the word or do they omit it specifically because it is a vowel? To find out, it is necessary to examine words whose phonemic structure is more complex than consonant-vowel-consonant. Only then will we be able to determine whether all phonemes in the middles of words are susceptible to omission, or just vowels. Consider the child who spelled rainy as RNIE. The spoken form of this word contains four phonemes—/r/, /e/, /n/, and /i/. The child who produced RNIE symbolized /r/ with r, /n/ with n, and /i/ with ie. The child failed to represent /e/ altogether, a vowel omission error. Other spellings that contain vowel omissions are HLP for help, in which /ɛ/ is deleted, and BLUN for balloon, in which the unstressed /ə/ of the first syllable is deleted. In this study, omission errors are defined by reference to the spoken form of the word, not by reference to its conventional spelling. Thus, the child who spelled said as SID is not considered to have made an omission error. This child did symbolize the vowel, albeit with i instead of with the correct ai.
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