Influences of Writing Systems on Young Childrens Spelling

Influences of Writing Systems on Young Childrens Spelling

Influences of Writing Systems on Young Childrens Spelling in English and
Portuguese
Introduction

Study 1: Methods and Results

Tatiana Cury Pollo, Brett Kessler, & Rebecca Treiman

Studies have demonstrated differences between English and other
languages in:

Accuracy and Learning Rate
English-speaking children take longer to become accurate
readers (Seymour, Aro, & Erskine, 2003).
Reading accuracy in English is much lower than in other
languages (Aro & Wimmer, 2003).

Stages of Spelling
Syllabic stage reported in:
Spanish:
Ferreiro & Teberosky (1983)
Portuguese: Martins & Silva (2001)
Italian:
Pontecorvo & Zuchermaglio (1988)
Little or no evidence of syllabic stage in English-speaking children.

Brazil: Pinheiro, 1996 (3,621 words)
U.S.: Zeno et al., 1995 (6,232 words)
Procedure: Calculated the number of letter names and
consonant-vowel ratio in Portuguese and English
words
Letter name analysis: More Vowel Letter Names in
Portuguese
2

Corpora:

Anecdotal evidence for all-vowel spellings in:
Spanish
AO
sapo
frog
Portuguese
AAUA
tartaruga
turtle
Italian
IAEA
primavera
spring
All-consonant spellings in English (Kamii et al., 1990)
PNTM
punishment

1.6

Portuguese

1.4

English

Children are more likely to include vowels in their spellings when
the vowel is a letter name.
Number of words that have letter names varies across
languages: Portuguese has been claimed to have more vowel
letter names in its words than English.
Syllabic spellings may result adventitiously from attempts to
represent letter names that children hear in words.

Letter Patterns
Children may be more inclined to use the letters and letter
patterns they have seen more often in their language.
Number of vowel letters per word might vary between
languages.

Research Questions
Study 1: What are the differences between English
and Portuguese in their letter name systems and
letter patterns?
Study 2: Do children take advantage of letter names
when spelling words, and do children differ in the
use of consonants and vowels across languages?

English

Vowel

One Letter
name
1.42

Two Letter
names
1.58

Consonant

2.32

2.30

2.21

2.11

Proportion of Phonetically Plausible Letters in Childrens
Spellings
Portuguese
English

1.2

Average number
of letter names

1
0.8

One letter
name

0.6
0.4

Vowel
Consonant

0.2
0

Consonants

Vowels

Letter type analysis: More Vowel Letters in Portuguese

0.71
0.61

Two
letter
names
0.83
0.65

One letter
name

Two letter
names

0.49
0.66

0.57
0.68

1

0 .8
0 .6

Vowel/
Consonant
Ratio

Portuguese

0 .4

English

0 .2
0

Graphemes

Phonemes

Two-letter spellings were not frequent:
Brazilian children
10%
American children 18%
Had children simply passed the syllabic stage?
No, even younger group of Portuguese speakers
produced only 19% of two-letter spellings.

Study 2: Conclusions

How can we explain these early differences?
Letter Names

Portuguese
One letter Two letter
name
names
1.69
1.90

1.8

Total

Acquisition of Consonants and Vowels

Study 2: Results

e-mail:
[email protected]
Mean Number of Consonants
and Vowels
per Spelling

Study 2: Methods
Participants:
49 native speakers of Portuguese from Belo Horizonte, Brazil
43 native speakers of English from St. Louis, U.S.
Mean age: 5 years, 6 months
Pre-tests: Letter name, letter sound, and reading of simple words
1
0.8

% C orrect

Portuguese

0.6

Are children influenced by letter names?
Yes: In both languages, the presence of vowel letter names in the
words leads children to use more vowels. Letter names also made
spellings more phonologically accurate in English and in
Portuguese.
Do we find differences in spelling between English- and
Portuguese-speaking children?
Yes: Portuguese-speaking children used more vowels. The higher
exposure to vowels by Portuguese-speaking children may explain
the higher usage of vowels by Brazilian children compared to
American children.

English

0.4
0.2

General Conclusions

0

Letter name

Letter sound

Reading

Spelling Test:
Two-syllable words (CVCV).
Two categories based on the number of letter names in the word:
One letter name (only the second vowel is a letter name)

BUNNY
Two letter names (both vowels in the words are letter names)

PONY

Portuguese-speaking children rely on a letter-name strategy
when trying to spell.
Letter names can influence children to a greater or lesser amount
depending on the writing system.
All-vowel spellings (e.g., OA for sapo) may reflect childrens use of
letter names rather than being evidence for a syllabic stage of
spelling development.
Other factors besides consistency of sound-letter relatioships
nfluence and distinguish children in their early spellings,
providing an additional explanation of the difficulty of acquiring
English spelling.

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