Studies have demonstrated differences between English and other
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:
Ferreiro & Teberosky (1983)
Portuguese: Martins & Silva (2001)
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
Letter name analysis: More Vowel Letter Names in
Anecdotal evidence for all-vowel spellings in:
All-consonant spellings in English (Kamii et al., 1990)
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.
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
Study 1: What are the differences between English
and Portuguese in their letter name systems and
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?
Proportion of Phonetically Plausible Letters in Childrens
of letter names
Letter type analysis: More Vowel Letters in Portuguese
Two-letter spellings were not frequent:
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?
One letter Two letter
Study 2: Methods
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
% C orrect
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
Do we find differences in spelling between English- and
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
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)
Two letter names (both vowels in the words are letter names)
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
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
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