Spelling as a Linguistic Process

What is spelling?

“a complex linguistic process without which writers could not generate write language”

What linguistic process goes into forming words?

Phonology

Letters

Sounds

Morphology

Etymology

Base words

Prefixes

Suffixes

A third process involved in spelling is orthography. This includes learned letter sequences and letter-sound correspondences.

Words are formed in 3 ways:

Phonological

words that are heard or spoken

onset/rimes, syllables, phonemes

Orthographic

words that are viewed and written

1 or 2 letter groups or larger multi-letter groups

Morphological

any input mode

root word, prefi, suffix

Misspelled words are a result of errors in one of (or a combination of) these processes. 

Misspelled words can be phonological, morphological, orthographic, phonological-morpological, phonological-orthographic, or motphological-orthographic in nature. 

Other factors that affect spelling errors:

Oral language

Reading

Vocabulary

Writing

Phonological processing

Orthographic processing

Morphologic processing

Working memory

Attention/control

Long-term memory

Metalinguistic sensitivity

*Silliman & Wilkinson, 1991

How can SLPs use spelling assessment with their students?

By looking at the types of errors students are demonstrating (and there could be many!), you can have an idea of how they’re processing information, especially morphologic and phonological, and use this to guide intervention. 

How should we assess spelling? 

Assess spelling in a writing sample (rather than spelling lists)

Code errors as phonological, morphologic, or orthographic (or a combination)

Things to remember:

Spelling errors are developmental

Spelling errors are principled over time

English spelling is patterned and logical (contrary to common belief!)

Ideas for Intervention

Look at word patterns including phonological patterns and orthographic patterns

Sort sounds by phonemes and orthographic patterns

Build vocabulary and morphological knowledge

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