Word Ratings of Spelling-to-Pronunciation Transparency

Word Ratings of Spelling-to-Pronunciation Transparency

First Author: Valeria Rigobon -- Florida State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Ashley Edwards; Laura Steacy; Don Compton
Keywords: English, Decoding, Orthographic complexity, University students, Word reading
Abstract / Summary: 


English, a quasiregular orthography, contains many irregular words varying significantly in distance between their decoded forms and the actual phonological representation in a reader’s lexicon (see Nation & Snowling, 1998). This “mismatch distance” has theoretical implications for item-level word reading development and has begun to be used as a word-level predictor of word reading variance in developing readers (Steacy et al., 2017, 2019). This study builds on existing knowledge of lexical features by asking students to rate the ease of determining irregular words’ lexical representations by applying standard decoding rules (i.e., ratings of word transparency) and explores other related word features.


Undergraduate student participants (N = 1,400) were randomly assigned an online survey of 250 words and asked to rate their spelling-to-pronunciation transparency on a scale of 1-6 (1= very easy, 6= very difficult). The selected words varied in morphological complexity, word length, frequency, neighborhood size, and concreteness ratings. Regression models were used to explain variance in word transparency ratings (N= 8,000) using various word-level predictors.


Results indicate that frequency and word length were significant predictors of students’ transparency ratings. Other interesting relationships between word features emerged in exploratory analyses. Findings additionally suggest that for words that had been rated previously by experts in Steacy et al. (2017), undergraduate students’ ratings appeared to be similar.


Results lend support for the validity of ratings that can be used for future reference in a publicly available database, such as the English Lexicon Project (ELP).