Linguistic Pattern Analysis of Misspellings of Typically Developing Writers in Grades 1–9

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nonlinear development, spelling, spelling errors, triple word-form theory

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Purpose: A mixed-methods approach, evaluating triple word-form theory, was used to describe linguistic patterns of misspellings.

Method: Spelling errors were taken from narrative and expository writing samples provided by 888 typically developing students in Grades 1–9. Errors were coded by category (phonological, orthographic, and morphological) and specific linguistic feature affected. Grade-level effects were analyzed with trend analysis. Qualitative analyses determined frequent error types and how use of specific linguistic features varied across grades.

Results: Phonological, orthographic, and morphological errors were noted across all grades, but orthographic errors predominated. Linear trends revealed developmental shifts in error proportions for the orthographic and morphological categories between Grades 4 and 5. Similar error types were noted across age groups, but the nature of linguistic feature error changed with age.

Conclusion: Triple word-form theory was supported. By Grade 1, orthographic errors predominated, and phonological and morphological error patterns were evident. Morphological errors increased in relative frequency in older students, probably due to a combination of word-formation issues and vocabulary growth. These patterns suggest that normal spelling development reflects nonlinear growth and that it takes a long time to develop a robust orthographic lexicon that coordinates phonology, orthography, and morphology and supports word-specific, conventional spelling.

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Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, v. 55, issue 6, p. 1587-1599