The paradox of persistent spelling errors on regularly inflected verb homophones. Do weak and strong spellers suffer the same effect of Homophone Dominance?

The paradox of persistent spelling errors on regularly inflected verb homophones. Do weak and strong spellers suffer the same effect of Homophone Dominance?

First Author: Dominiek SANDRA -- University of Antwerp
Additional authors/chairs: 
Hanne Surkyn; Reinhild Vandekerckhove
Keywords: Spelling errors, Homophone Dominance, mental lexicon, Working memory, Literacy
Abstract / Summary: 

PURPOSE
Spelling errors on homophonous, *rule-governed*, Dutch verb homophones are persistent, even in experienced writers. In experimental papers, Sandra et al. showed that working-memory limitations and the frequency relation between the homophones’ form representations jointly cause an effect of Homophone Dominance: most intrusions occur on the lower-frequency homophone, irrespective of its suffix spelling.

(1) Do these findings generalise to real-life situations?
(2) If so, is the effect of Homophone Dominance the same for weaker and stronger spellers (correlated with the social variables Gender, Age, and Educational Track)?

HYPOTHESIS
Social variables affect the error *rates*, i.e., how often spellers’ mental infrastructure causes errors, but not the error *pattern*, i.e., which reflects the basic operation of this infrastructure.

METHOD
We analysed homophone intrusions in a large chat corpus. Chatters’ speed is likely to deplete their working-memory resources. We studied two verb types, each with two homophonous inflected forms. Type1: 5,804 homophones (652 chatters and 76 verbs). Type2: 2,441 homophones (490 chatters, 133 verbs).

RESULTS
The verb types yielded identical outcomes. (1) Each social variable determined error rates: female chatters made fewer errors, as did older ones, and those in the theoretical educational track. (2) The effect of Homophone Dominance was significant. (3) This effect did not interact with the social factors.

CONCLUSION
1. Earlier experimental effects generalise to contexts outside the lab
2. The effect of Homophone Dominance does not differ between weaker and stronger spellers.
Hence, the account based on experimental data (interaction between working-memory and mental lexicon) has ecological validity

Sandra,D. et al.(1999). Why simple verb forms can be so difficult to spell.Brain and Language,68,277-83.
(2009). Frequency and analogical effects in spelling homophonous patterns.Mental Lexicon,4,239-74