Encoding across time and languages

Encoding across time and languages

First Author: Joanne Arciuli -- Flinders University
Keywords: Spelling, Bilingualism, Word reading, Longitudinal
Abstract / Summary: 

This symposium includes five papers that examine the spelling abilities of typically developing children, some of whom are bilingual. The symposium showcases advances in our understanding of spelling processes across time and across languages. As such, the papers include several longitudinal studies and include languages as diverse as Chinese, Hebrew, and English. Outcomes of these studies have theoretical significance in revealing the predictors of spelling ability and in emphasising the value of early spelling skills for predicting later literacy abilities. Other studies have clear practical significance. For example, some of the empirical work presented in this symposium demonstrates that children’s spelling ability improves after implicit learning via a relatively brief colour-detection task – replicating the findings of an earlier study in Greek and extending this to English. The five papers come from different labs across the USA, Australia, Israel, and China. Presenters represent a mix of early career and senior researchers.

Symposium Papers: 

Incidental orthographic learning via colour detection task improves children’s spelling performance in English

First Author/Chair:Ben Bailey -- The University of Sydney
Additional authors/chairs: 
Joanne Arciuli, Athanasios Protopapas

Purpose – Protopapas et al. (2017) demonstrated that a visual perceptual learning task without articulation results in incidental orthographic learning (improved reading and spelling) in Greek-speaking children (8-11 years). We investigated the effects of the same incidental learning procedure on 21 English-speaking children (7-8 years).

Method – Stimuli were 20 difficult to spell English words comprised of two sets of 10 (Set A and Set B). In a cross-over design, Set A were targets for half of the participants (Set B: distractors) while Set B were targets for the other half (Set A: distractors). There were 200 filler words. Participants were assigned to Group 1 (Set A: targets) or Group 2 (Set B: targets). During the learning task, targets (red-coloured) were presented on a computer screen in rapid succession interleaved among distractors and filler items (black-coloured). Participants pressed a button upon viewing something red. Reading and spelling of target/distractor items was tested before and after the task.

Results – A 2 x 2 ANOVA (WordType [targets vs. distractors] x Group [1 vs. 2]) using pre-post spelling accuracy difference scores as the dependent variable revealed a significant main effect of WordType, F(1, 19) = 6.75, p = .02, ƞp2 = .26. Children made greater gains on targets vs. distractors. There was no significant main effect of Group and no significant WordType x Group interaction. As most children were at ceiling on reading, there were no significant effects.

Conclusion – Incidental learning via a visual perceptual task improves spelling performance in English as it does in Greek.

Longitudinal indicators of spelling development in first and second language learners

First Author/Chair:Yanyan Ye -- The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Additional authors/chairs: 
Jason Lo, Catherine McBride, Connie Ho, Mary Waye

We tested the correlates of first and second language spelling development in Chinese-English bilingual children from Hong Kong across 2 years.

110 Hong Kong children (mean age=93.14 months) were followed for two years. Basic literacy skills were tested at Time1 as indicators of Time2 spelling performance. Considering the large age range (59 months at Time1) in our sample, multiple groups path analyses were applied to test the age effects on each path loading. Time 1 spelling performance, age, and IQ were statistically controlled.

The model for Chinese spelling development differed from that for English spelling, and models also differed with age. For Chinese spelling, the best indicator was RAN. Age moderated the relationship between spelling and phonological awareness and between spelling and pure copying, suggesting that phonological awareness and pure copying skills were better indicators of Chinese spelling in younger children but not in the older group. For English spelling, morphological awareness and vocabulary knowledge in English were among the strongest indicators. Age moderated the correlations between spelling and phonological awareness and between spelling and RAN, suggesting that phonological awareness was a stronger correlate in the older group while RAN was a stronger correlate in the younger group.

These results suggest that the processes involved in Chinese (L1) and English (L2) spelling development likely vary. Whereas L2 spelling seemed to depend most upon English language knowledge, in Chinese, spelling skills were associated with both RAN and copying skill, at least in younger children.

Spelling affix letters in Hebrew: a new conceptual outlook

First Author/Chair:Rachel Schiff -- Bar Ilan University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Dorit Ravid, Shlomit Rosenshtok

Purpose. Morphological cues determine the development of spelling abilities in native-speaking Hebrew learners, as homophonous phonemes can be spelled in different ways (Ravid, 2012). Learning to spell Hebrew root letters challenges students across schoolage, due to their high type and low token frequency, whereas the spelling of most affix letters is mastered in earlier grade levels due to their low type and high token frequencies, coupled with morphological transparency (Ravid, 2001, 2005). Nonetheless, students continue to struggle with a class of affix letters with a confluence of phonological factors that mask morphological cues.

Method. Study participants were 83 monolingual Hebrew-speaking students in four grade levels – 2nd, 4th, 7th and 10th grades. The main research instrument was a spelling task of 244 high and low frequency words containing affix letters in 57 morphological categories, presented in the context of short sentences to assure clarity of meaning. Affix letters were analyzed on the basis of five criteria taking into account the morphological category frequency, morpho-orthographic sites, morpho-orthographic prevalence, morphological “enemies”, and phonological transparency.

Results. Correct spelling increased across grade levels. While all five criteria were found to affect correct spelling performance, a hierarchy emerged in interaction with grade level. Younger spellers were assisted by morpho-orthographic, morphological category and phonological transparency in both high and low frequency words, while spelling in higher grade levels was more affected by morpho-orthographic prevalence.

Conclusion. The study underscores the need to consider the development of Hebrew affix letter spelling taking into account phonological, morphological and orthographic factors.

Word reading and spelling accuracy: same or different skills?

First Author/Chair:Richard Olsen -- University of Colorado
Additional authors/chairs: 
Jacqueline Hulslander, Rebecca Treiman

Purpose: To question the common assumption that individual differences in word reading and spelling accuracy are dissociable.

Method: 1842 children between 8 and 18 years of age were tested on multiple measures of word reading and spelling accuracy, phonological awareness (PA), and rapid naming (RAN). The multiple measures for each trait were used to support modelling of relatively error-free latent traits for each measure.

Results: The latent trait correlation between age and gender adjusted individual differences in word reading and spelling latent traits was .97. Both traits were similarly correlated at .83 with phonological awareness, and at .57 and .58 respectively with RAN.

Conclusions: While it is common for many people to think they are uniquely poor spellers (compared to peers) but ok readers, perhaps because they misspell words they can read, the results show that individual differences in reading and spelling are nearly perfectly correlated, and their correlations with PA and RAN subskills are nearly identical. While a correlation of .97 between reading and spelling is not perfect, it does indicate that discrepancies between individual differences in reading and spelling are rare in the population.

The unique role of early spelling in the prediction of later literacy performance

First Author/Chair:Rebecca Treiman -- Washington University in St. Louis
Additional authors/chairs: 
Jacqueline Hulslander; Richard K. Olson; Brian Byrne; Brett Kessler

Purpose: The goal of the study was to examine the predictive value of kindergarten spelling for later spelling and reading performance. We asked which methods of scoring children’s early spellings correlate best with later literacy performance and whether spelling is a unique predictor once other widely acknowledged predictors are considered.

Method: We analyzed data from 1492 U.S. and Australian kindergarteners (mean age 6 years; 2 months) from the International Longitudinal Twin Study. Most of the children were followed into later grades, receiving standardized reading and spelling tests at the ends of Grade 1 (7;3), Grade 2 (mean age 8;3) and, for U.S. children, Grade 4 (10;5). Performance on a 10-word kindergarten spelling test was scored by three methods that gave more credit to correct letter choices than to phonologically correct but unconventional letter choices (e.g., scoring bue for blue as better than boo) and three methods that did not (e.g., scoring mann as highly as man for man).

Results: Kindergarten spelling, especially as measured by methods that gave special credit to conventionally correct letter choices, was a significant predictor of reading and spelling performance at the ends of Grades 1, 2, and 4 beyond phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, vocabulary, and kindergarten reading.

Conclusions: The results highlight the importance of spelling by showing that early spelling provides unique information relevant to the prediction of later literacy performance. The results further suggest that knowledge of conventional spellings, not just knowledge of phonological plausible spellings, is important by the end of kindergarten.