The phonological influences on children's spelling

Investigators: Uta Papen, Kevin Watson, and Nicola Marriot.

According to current views of children's literacy, spelling is very much influenced by pronunciation at the early stages of development (Read 1986, Treiman 1997). Children begin to spell words by attempting to represent the sounds that they hear. Accordingly, children with different accents might be expected to make different spelling mistakes. This has been shown in a comparison of US English and British English speakers (see e.g. Treiman 2000) but no previous work to date has examined the effect of accent variation within Britain . In addition, children's spelling is often examined from the point of view of deficit rather than resource. A different approach, drawing on recent research in the field of literacy and children's education (see for example Pahl and Rowsell 2005) would regard these mistakes not simply as 'incorrect' but as examples of how children actively engage with literacy, draw on their own resources (e.g. spoken language) and in the process develop their ability to write.

In this small scale research project, we aim to investigate the connection between UK children's spelling and their speech and its implications for teaching and learning in primary schools.

We are currently collecting and analysing the writing of young children from five UK cities (Lancaster , Liverpool , London , Newcastle , and Edinburgh) with the hypothesis there will be different kinds of mistakes as a result of the differing phonological systems. These accent areas were chosen as they exhibit significant differences but also some similarities (see e.g. Wells 1982).

Once the first stage of the analysis has been completed we will post some preliminary results on this page.



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