Spelling in non-alphabetic languages

Spelling in non-alphabetic languages

First Author: Poh Wee Koh -- Texas A & M University
Additional authors/chairs: 
R.M. Joshi
Keywords: Spelling, Non-alphabetic languages
Abstract / Summary: 

This symposium brings together five presentations that examine how spelling is associated with reading and reading-related skills in non-alphabetic languages (i.e., Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Tamil). The underlying thread across presentations is the focus on different variants of non-alphabetic languages (e.g., syllabic, akshara-syllabic, alpha-syllabic, and morpho-syllabic systems), which allows for an in-depth examination of language-universal and language-specific features of spelling. Furthermore, the consideration of both cross-sectional and longitudinal perspectives serves to inform about the suitability of existing theoretical frameworks in explaining spelling development at different points in the developmental trajectory. The findings of these papers relating to cognitive correlates (e.g., phonological awareness, morphological awareness, reading accuracy & fluency) and home literacy factors have implications on how instruction in these skills both in school and at home can facilitate spelling development. Findings also shed light on how reading and spelling instruction can be complementary.

Symposium Papers: 

Kindergarten predictors of first- and second- grade literacy performance in Chinese

First Author/Chair:Catherine McBride -- Chinese University of Hong Kong
Additional authors/chairs: 
Yanyan Ye

Purpose: The role of rapid naming (RAN), phonological awareness, morphological awareness, orthographic awareness, pure copying, and delayed copying in the development of reading and spelling abilities in Chinese were examined using a three-time point longitudinal design.

Method: A battery of cognitive-linguistic and literacy tasks was administered to 215 kindergarteners (mean age = 5.54 years, SD=0.47) and only word reading and dictation tasks were repeated two times in the following two years.

Results: Multiple regressions showed that for reading performance at first and second grade, RAN, morphological awareness, and delayed copying measured in kindergarten were among the strongest predictors. For spelling performance at first and second grade, RAN and delayed copying were the strongest predictors. The cross-lagged relations between reading and spelling performance were then examined. The final model showed that reading performance at kindergarten and first grade predicted spelling performance at first grade and second grade, respectively. However, the relations were not bidirectional. Both RAN and delayed copying remained significant predictors for first grade reading and spelling performance but not for second grade performance after the autoregressive effect (of reading or spelling, respectively) was controlled. Morphological awareness was a strong correlate of both reading and spelling performance concurrently, but no longer a significant predictor for future literacy performance.

Conclusion: This study underscores the critical role of both RAN and delayed copying for early literacy performance in Chinese. In addition, it demonstrates that earlier reading performance predicts later spelling performance in Chinese, but early spelling does not predict subsequent reading in Chinese.

Reciprocal relations between Mandarin spelling and reading fluency in early elementary grades

First Author/Chair:Bing Han -- Texas A & M University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Poh Wee Koh; Hong Li; R.M. Joshi

Purpose. Researchers have suggested strong associations between reading and writing outcomes, especially in Chinese, although most studies have focused on reading accuracy. In light of research showing the importance of considering both accuracy and rate in conceptualizing reading, this study examined the longitudinal relations between reading fluency and character spelling among Chinese children in early elementary grades.

Method. Two hundred and four Chinese monolingual children were tested on tasks of speeded word list reading (i.e., rate as measured by number of characters read correctly in 45 seconds), and character dictation (spelling) four times across grades one (M = 6.66 years, SD = .30) through three.

Results. A series of three cross-lagged panel models outlining unidirectional and bidirectional relations between spelling and reading fluency were constructed and compared. The unidirectional model leading from reading fluency to spelling best described the longitudinal relations between the two constructs. Specifically, reading fluency measured in grade one predicted spelling in grade two. Conversely, spelling in earlier grades did not predict reading fluency in later grades.

Conclusions. Findings suggest that the ability to recognize characters not just accurately, but rapidly, provides the foundation for the development of spelling subsequently among children in the early years of formal schooling. The findings suggest the importance of building up children’s rapid recognition of characters in instruction and the need to also consider reading rate as a precursor of later spelling performance.

Cognitive and environmental correlates of spelling development in the hybrid writing system of Japanese

First Author/Chair:Tomohiro Inoue -- Seigakuin University
Additional authors/chairs: 
George K. Georgiou ; Rauno Parrila

Purpose. The hybrid writing system of Japanese is characterized by the combined use of two functionally distinct scripts: syllabic Hiragana and morphographic Kanji. In the present study, we examined the cognitive and environmental correlates of spelling skills in the two scripts of Japanese.

Method. One hundred sixty-nine Grade 1 Japanese children (Mage = 80.12 months, SD = 3.62) participated in the study, and 135 were followed until the middle of Grade 2. They were assessed on syllable awareness (SA), rapid automatized naming (RAN), phonological memory (PM), morphological awareness (MA), and literacy skills (character recognition and spelling) in Hiragana at the beginning of Grade 1. Parents also participated in the study by filling out a questionnaire on the frequency of teaching at home and on their education level. The children were reassessed on literacy skills in Kanji at the middle of Grade 2.

Results. Results of path analysis showed that: (1) SA and RAN were uniquely associated with both character recognition and spelling in Hiragana; (2) Hiragana spelling uniquely predicted later Kanji spelling while Hiragana character recognition did not; (3) MA and parents’ teaching had a unique effect on later Kanji spelling over and above the effects of Hiragana literacy skills.

Conclusions. The findings provide evidence for the cross-script effect of spelling in the Japanese writing system and for the differences in the cognitive and environmental correlates of spelling development between the two scripts.

Different cognitive correlates of early learning of spelling of different target types in Korean Hangul among L1 children and L2 adults

First Author/Chair:Jeung-Ryeul Cho -- Kyungnam University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Catherine McBride

Purpose: This study examined whether different cognitive correlates are associated with spelling of different target types, such as phonologically consistent and inconsistent syllables of Korean Hangul that is called an alphasyllabary.

Method: We tested 94 five-year old L1 Korean children and 41 L2 Hong Kong Chinese college students. Korean children performed tasks of spelling, along with syllable and coda awareness, phonological working memory, morphological awareness, vocabulary, orthographic knowledge, and orthographic working memory. Hong Kong Chinese college students were tested with spelling of Korean Hangul as an L2 along with a battery of tasks similar to those administered to the children.

Results: For Korean five-year-old children, coda awareness and orthographic working memory explained unique variance in spelling of phonologically consistent syllables, whereas syllable and coda awareness, orthographic working memory, orthographic knowledge, and vocabulary all explained unique variance in spelling of inconsistent syllables. For Hong Kong Chinese college students, only orthographic working memory significantly explained spelling of consistent syllables of Hangul whereas only vocabulary knowledge explained spelling of inconsistent syllables of Hangul. In both groups, spelling accuracy was lower in phonologically inconsistent than in consistent Hangul syllables.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that different cognitive demands are involved in early spelling of phonologically consistent and inconsistent syllables in Korean Hangul among L1 and L2 learners.

Spelling words in simplified Chinese and Tamil: what are the error patterns?

First Author/Chair:Beth A. O'Brien -- National Institute of Education, Singapore
Additional authors/chairs: 
Alexa von Hagen; Nicole Lim; Malikka Habib; Poorani Vijayakumar; Chiao-Yi Wu; Annabel S.H. Chen; Brenda Rapp; Michael McCloskey

Purpose. Although phonology, orthography and morphology/semantics are acknowledged to contribute to reading and spelling skills (Plaut,1997; Bahr, Silliman, Berninger & Dow, 2012), the relative contribution to literacy achievement varies across different writing systems (e.g., Ziegler et al., 2010; McBride-Chang & Liu, 2011). Yet, it is still unclear what roles these knowledge forms play in spelling words within different orthographies at different grainsizes. We examine two scripts with large orthographic inventories (simplified Chinese and Tamil) for the types and prevalence of spelling errors committed by adults. We consider four grainsizes that are dissimilar from levels within alphabetic systems: whole word (lexical), subword, sub-character/sub-akshara, and stroke.

Method. Ninety-six Singaporean adults completed spelling to dictation tasks in Mandarin Chinese (n=55) or Tamil (n=41) for lists of words, and pseudowords for Tamil. Overall errors and categories of spelling errors are analyzed for each language across different grainsizes. Nonverbal cognitive ability and receptive vocabulary were also assessed.

Results. Preliminary analysis indicates that more errors were committed in the Chinese task compared with Tamil overall. Categories of error types indicating phonological, morphological, orthographic or graphemic-based errors are further examined per language, and are reported as the proportion of error types across grain sizes.

Conclusions. Results highlight to what extent the role of phonological, orthographic and morphological knowledge can vary across orthographies. The findings have theoretical implications for universal models of spelling performance, and may draw practical implications for assessing and supporting spelling in different scripts.