Article number 1309


Spelling is a fundamental literacy skill facilitating word recognition and thus higher level reading abilities via its support for efficient text processing (Adams, 1990; Joshi et al., 2008; Perfetti and Stafura, 2014). However, relatively little work examines second language (L2) spelling in adults, and even less work examines learners from different first language (L1) writing systems. This is despite the fact that the influence of L1 writing system on L2 literacy skills is well documented (Hudson, 2007; Koda and Zehler, 2008; Grabe, 2009). To address this shortcoming, this study collected data on real word spelling, pseudoword spelling, and phonological awareness (elision) abilities from 70 participants (23 native speakers; 47 ELLs with alphabetic, abjad, and morphosyllabic L1s). Analyses compared performance on real word and pseudoword spelling between L1 English speakers and ELLs, and additionally among the non-native speaker L1 groups (categorized into alphabet, abjad, and morphosyllabary groups). Similar comparisons were made across groups for performance on phonological awareness. Further, correlations were calculated between phonological awareness and real word spelling and between phonological awareness and pseudoword spelling, separately for L1 English speakers and the various ESL groups. Spelling accuracy on real words and pseudowords as well as phonological awareness skill differed between native speakers and ESL speakers, and also varied by the ESL speakers’ L1 writing system. Theoretically interesting patterns emerged in the spelling data. For example, the morphosyllabic L1 speakers had strong real word spelling (better than the other ESL groups) but greatly decreased pseudoword accuracy (a drop of 59% in accuracy). Although alphabetic L1 speakers had low spelling accuracy in terms of strict scoring, they had lower rates of errors per item, highlighting the importance of scoring approach for shaping the conclusions that are drawn. Error rates also revealed vowels to be more problematic than consonants, particularly in abjad L1 speakers. The results demonstrate that L2 spelling abilities, phonological awareness, and the relationships among them vary by L1 writing system, and that differing approaches to scoring and analysis may lead to varying conclusions.



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