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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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Spelling of Phonemes: Correct Spellings, Legal Substitutions, and Illegal Substitutions

Spelling of Phonemes: Correct Spellings, Legal Substitutions, and Illegal Substitutions

Chapter:
3 Spelling of Phonemes: Correct Spellings, Legal Substitutions, and Illegal Substitutions
Source:
Beginning to Spell
Author(s):

Rebecca Treiman

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780195062199.003.0006

So far, I have examined children’s spellings at the level of whole words. The results show that children have more difficulty with some kinds of words than others. For example, children often misspell words that contain multiple-letter graphemes, words such as that and sang. Children often misspell irregular words, words such as said and come. One would guess that th is the trouble spot in that and ai is the trouble spot in said. However, because the analyses presented so far are confined to whole words, I cannot say for sure. To determine which parts of words are difficult to spell, I must move from the level of whole words to the level of individual phonemes and individual graphemes. The need to examine children’s spellings at the level of phonemes and graphemes stems from the nature of the English writing system itself. As discussed in Chapter 1, the English writing system is basically alphabetic. Although most phonemes may be spelled in more than one way, there are relations between phonemes and graphemes. For instance, /k/ may be spelled with k, as in key, c, as in care, or ck, as in back, among other possibilities. Adults cannot always choose the correct spelling from among these possibilities, but we know that /k/ could never be written with m or b. Our knowledge of phoneme-grapheme correspondences tells us that Carl or Karl are reasonable renditions of the spoken form /k’arl/ but that Marl is not. Traditionally, it was thought that children learn to spell on a visual basis, by memorizing the sequence of letters in each word. In this view, children treat printed words as wholes. They do not learn relations between the parts of printed words (graphemes) and the parts of spoken words (phonemes). The traditional view further implies that children memorize one word at a time. They do not learn relations between sounds and spellings that apply to many different words. Findings reported in Chapter 2 suggest that this traditional view of learning to spell is incorrect For example, children's difficulty on irregular words like said and come suggests that children learn about the correspondences between phonemes and graphemes.

Keywords:   Distinctive features, Korean, Lateral phonemes, Serbo-Croatian, Spelling reform, Substitution errors, Writing systems

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