Constraints on Spelling Changes
  • ISSN 1387-6732
  • E-ISSN: 1570-6001
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


This paper is concerned with the relation between our capacity for alphabetic reading and writing the sound forms of languages on the one hand, and the structure of speech and language on the other. It starts from two questions: (1) What structural properties of human languages enable us to read and write their sound forms with a handful of alphabetic symbols? (2) Why is learning this skill so difficult? Ad (1) it is argued here that the basis for reading and writing in an alphabet is the inherent segmentability of speech, stemming from the synchronization of articulatory gestures during speech production. This synchronization arises from inherent properties of both speech production and speech perception. Ad (2) it is suggested here that learning to read and write with alphabetic letters is so difficult, because in the mental structure of sound forms there are no pre-existing discrete phoneme-sized segments, at least not of a kind that language users are easily aware of. This makes analysis of sound forms into such phoneme-sized segments difficult, although such analysis is a prerequisite skill for alphabetic reading and writing. For easy learning, the relation between letters and speech segments should preferably be systematic and transparent.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error