Learning to Spell From Print and Learning to Spell From Speech: A Study of Spelling of Children Who Speak Tamil, a Dravidian Language
Research conducted in recent years has shown that, during the early stages of learning to spell, children tend to represent words by their sounds and letter names rather than by their looks. The research studies that support this view have relied on the developmental trends seen in spelling acquisition as well as comparison of spellings produced by children who speak different dialects of English. Developmentally, children’s misspellings reflect their effort to phoneticize the spellings of words that, in orthographies such as English, do not have a systematic correspondence with pronunciation (Treiman, 1993). For instance, a number of studies that examined the spelling performance of elementary school children report that Black English dialect has an influence on the spelling of children who speak that dialect (Carney, 1979; Hugh, 1970; Kligman and Bruce, 1974; Schwab, 1971). Further evidence
attesting to the influence of dialect on spelling comes from studies that found that, even among speakers of standard English, dialectical variation is correlated with spelling variation. Treiman, Goswami, Tincoff & Leevers (1997) studied British and American children and found that young children’s spelling errors reflect the characteristics of their dialect. Treiman and Barry (2000) further found that the influence of dialect on spelling is not a transient phenomenon because differences similar to the ones seen in children’s spellings can also be found in the spellings of British and American college students. These studies show that dialectical variation can be a source of spelling errors and that this can be taken as evidence of the influence of phonology on spelling.