Similarities among the shapes of writing and their effects on learning

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Writing systems are usually studied in terms of the level of language that they represent, with little attention to the shapes that are used to do so. Those shapes are not random or accidental, however. They tend to be similar to one another within a script. Many of the Latin letters have a roughly vertical stem or <i>hasta</i> with an appendage or <i>coda</i> to the right. This arrangement is more common than one with the coda on the left of the hasta. We present data to show that young children are generally better at copying and writing from memory shapes such as &#60;b&#62; and &#60;F&#62;, which have the typical arrangement with the coda on the right, than those such as &#60;d&#62; and &#60;J&#62;, which do not. The results suggest that children start to learn about the statistics of the letter shapes before they know how or that these shapes represent language. Keywords: letter shapes; letters; statistical learning; Latin alphabet; reversal; left-right orientation; directionality; hasta-coda-structure


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