Learning to Spell in Different Languages: How Orthographic Variables Might Affect Early Literacy
As is true of many aspects of literacy research, much more is known about the development of spelling in English than in other languages. Although the cognitive processes involved in learning to spell are not yet fully understood in any language, numerous English-based studies have now documented various aspects of the skill including the main developmental phases (Ehri, 1997; Frith, 1980; Gentry, 1982; Henderson & Beers, 1980), a detailed inventory of the various types of difficulties posed by the English spelling system (Treiman, 1993; Treiman, Zukowski, & Richmond-Welty, 1995), as well as developmental models of the cognitive processes and component skills underpinning spelling performance (Caravolas, Hulme, & Snowling, 2001; Rittle-Johnson & Siegler, 1999). What clearly emerges from these and many other studies is that learning to spell in English is a complex, long-term process that is founded on phoneme analysis ability, letter knowledge, and phoneme-grapheme recoding skills (Caravolas et al., 2001), but that eventually requires the integration of knowledge about the morphological (Bryant, Nunes, & Bindman, 1997; Treiman, Cassar, & Zukowski, 1994) and orthographic (Cassar & Treiman, 1997; Ehri, 1997) structure of words as well. An important question, and the main focus of this chapter, concerns the extent to which the descriptions and explanations of spelling development in English generalize to other alphabetic orthographies.