Volume 26, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0172-8865
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9730
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A common assumption in studies of English world-wide is that speakers of an L2 frequently rely on the orthographic form of words in settling upon their pronunciation. I call this the “spelling form hypothesis”. This paper critically examines the assumptions behind this hypothesis and shows them to be implausible, and in fact fallacious for advanced interlanguages and fluent sub-varieties of a second language. Using data from Black South African English involving the equivalents of schwa in “standard” varieties (e.g. RP, General American and “cultivated” South African English), I argue that phonetic and orthographic forms often do not coincide. Furthermore, even where they coincide, other phonological factors than the use of spelling are usually at play.


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