From Letter to Sound: New perspectives on writing systems
  • ISSN 1387-6732
  • E-ISSN: 1570-6001
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Philologists, linguists, and educators have insisted for several centuries that the ideal orthography has a one-to-one correspondence between grapheme and phoneme. Others, however, have suggested deviations for such functions as distinguishing homophones, displaying popular alternative spellings, and retaining morpheme identity. If, indeed, the one-to-one ideal were accepted, the International Phonetic Alphabet should become the orthographic standard for all enlightened nations, yet the failure of even a single country to adopt it for practical writing suggests that other factors besides phonology are considered important for a writing system. Whatever the ideal orthography might be, the practical writing systems adopted upon this earth reflect linguistic, psychological, and cultural considerations. Knowingly or unknowingly, countries have adopted orthographies that favour either the early stages of learning to read or the advanced stages, that is, the experienced reader. The more a system tends towards a one-to-one relationship between graphemes and phonemes, the more it assists the new reader and the non-speaker of the language while the more it marks etymology and morphology, the more it favours the experienced reader. The study of psychological processing in reading demonstrates that human capacities for processing print are so powerful that complex patterns and irregularities pose only a small challenge. Orthographic regularity is extracted from lexical input and used to recognise words during reading. To understand how such a system develops, researchers should draw on the general mechanisms of perceptual learning.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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