Learning to Use an Alphabetic Writing System

Rebecca Treiman, Brett Kessler
<span title="">2013</span> <i title="Informa UK Limited"> <a target="_blank" rel="noopener" href="https://fatcat.wiki/container/mlpcvk4cgvbszb2paoab723f3i" style="color: black;">Language Learning and Development</a> </i> &nbsp;
Gaining facility with spelling is an important part of becoming a good writer. Here we review recent work on how children learn to spell in alphabetic writing systems. Statistical learning plays an important role in this process. Young children learn about some of the salient graphic characteristics of written texts and attempt to reproduce these characteristics in their own productions even before they use letters to represent phonemes. Later, children apply their statistical learning skills
more &raquo; ... links between phonemes and spellings, including those that are conditioned by context and morphology. Children use what they know about language and about letter names when learning about spelling, and learning to spell in turn influences their ideas about language. Although children learn about some aspects of spelling implicitly, explicit instruction has an important role to play. We discuss some implications of the research for the design of that instruction. Language is a powerful method of communication. It fades quickly, however, and this evanescence limits its usefulness in some situations. To overcome this problem, some groups of people have invented more permanent methods of communication. The most useful of these methods, writing, derives much of its power from the fact that it represents language. To use Sampson's (1987) term, writing is glottographic. Different writing systems represent language at different levels, including the morpheme, the syllable, and the phoneme. Some systems represent more than one level of language. In this paper, we focus on writing systems that map onto language primarily at the level of phonemes, or alphabetic systems. We ask how children learn to use these systems for purposes of spelling, and we ask how parents and teachers can best help them to do so. Researchers and educators sometimes refer to spelling as a low-level skill (Shankweiler & Lundquist, 1992) . This label may imply that spelling is less important than and subservient to the skills that are involved in constructing and organizing sentences, paragraphs, and documents. But learning to spell is important, in part, because human attention is limited. Children who must devote a good deal of attention to spelling have fewer mental resources available for other aspects of writing. They cannot take full advantage of the power that writing provides, lowering their potential for success in a modern literate society. One potential way to learn to spell would be to learn the orthographic form for each word in one's spoken vocabulary as a whole. Indeed, learning to spell was long seen as a process of rote whole-word memorization, making its study of relatively little interest to linguistically minded
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