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Beginning to SpellA Study of First-Grade Children$
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Rebecca Treiman

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780195062199

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195062199.001.0001

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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: 17 October 2021

Spelling of Words

Spelling of Words

2 (p.39) Spelling of Words
Beginning to Spell

Rebecca Treiman

Oxford University Press

In studying the first graders’ spellings, it is reasonable to begin at the simplest possible level of analysis. The most basic way to look at the children’s spellings is at the level of whole words. At this level, the simplest possible question is whether a word is spelled correctly or incorrectly. Once children’s spellings are classified as correct or incorrect, a number of questions arise. Are some words easier for children to spell correctly than others? If so, what kinds of words are easy to spell and what kinds of words are hard to spell? The answers to these questions should shed light on the difficulties that children face in learning the English writing system. For example, if children have more trouble on irregular words than on regular words, one could suggest that the irregularity of the English system is one source of difficulty in learning to spell. If children often misspell inflected and derived words, one could suggest that the morphological basis of the English writing system is a problem for first graders. Such issues are addressed in the first section of this chapter. Although it is easy to classify children’s spellings of whole words as correct or incorrect, this simple classification may obscure potentially important information. For example, although KARE is the wrong spelling of care, this error is a plausible rendition of the word’s spoken form. The letter k is a reasonable rendering of the phoneme /k/; /k/ is spelled as k in words like kite and king. In the terms introduced in Chapter 1, KARE is a legal misspelling of care. On the other hand, CA is an illegal spelling of care. It contains no representation of the /r/. In this chapter, I take a first step beyond the correct/incorrect distinction by classifying errors on whole words as legal or illegal. I ask whether some kinds of words give rise to more legal errors than other words and why. Legal errors are not all alike. They differ from one another in a number of ways, one of which is how easy they are to decipher.

Keywords:   Attempts at word spellings, Composition, Deaf children, Destressable words, Dyslexia, Grammatical words, Homophones, Illegal spelling errors, Italian, Legal spelling errors

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