Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Major Professor

Ruth Huntley Bahr, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elaine R. Silliman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robin Danzak, Ph.D.


phonology, orthography, morphology, morphosyntax, cross-language transfer


In spite of the significant growth in the Spanish-English bilingual population, there has not been sufficient research on cross-language effects, or how language transfer may affect important components of literacy, such as spelling. Many studies have focused on the influence of Spanish on the acquisition of English spelling skills; however, few studies have focused on how the acquisition of English influences Spanish spelling. The purpose of this investigation was to study the spelling errors of bilingual adolescents as they learn English.

A total of 20 bilingual Spanish-English students in grades 6 through 8 (ages 11 to 14 years) were selected from a larger mixed methods study (Danzak, 2009) not concerned with spelling. These students were enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in a public middle school located on the west coast of Florida. The students completed four writing samples in each language (evenly divided between narrative and expository genres). All samples were analyzed using the Phonological Orthographic Morphological Assessment of Spelling-Spanish (POMAS-S), a linguistically-based analysis system that qualitatively describes Spanish spelling errors and is sensitive to effects of cross-language transfer.

Misspellings were extracted from the students' writing samples and were examined by looking at the effects of linguistic category, genre, and gender. Results of the three-way ANOVA revealed that the greatest number of errors occurred in the orthographic category, accounting for over 70% of the errors. Errors attributed to the other linguistic categories occurred less than 10% of the time each. There were no effects attributed to genre or gender.

The qualitative analysis revealed that the most common linguistic feature error was OAT (orthographic tonic accents) comprising 37% of the total number of errors followed by OLS (letter sound) errors, which comprised 11% of the total number of errors. All other phonological, orthographic, morphological, and phonological-orthographic linguistic feature patterns occurred with a frequency of 5% or less. Knowledge of the English language had a minimal, but obvious, influence on their spelling. These findings would suggest that Spanish-English bilingual adolescents predominantly made spelling errors that did not follow the orthographic rules of Spanish. Educational implications are presented.