, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 399-412
Date: 28 Nov 2006

The sbelling of sdops: Preliterate children’s spelling of stops after /s/

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Newly literate children have a tendency to spell s-stop sequences in words like spin, stop, sky with B, D, G (SBIN, SDOP, SGY), rather than with standard P, T, K. This observation potentially has implications for theories of English phonology as well as of language and literacy acquisition. Understanding these implications, however, requires data about the spelling preferences of preliterate children. In this study, a training-and-transfer design was used to test these spelling preferences in preliterate children. Results confirm that these children relate words with stops after /s/ to words with initial /b, d, g/ rather than to words with initial /p, t, k/. The paper outlines several possible interpretations: that preliterate children have a different phonemic analysis from adults, that they believe spelling represents archiphonemes that they believe spelling represents allophones, and that their early spelling attempts track the phonetic surface. The data suggest rejection of the second interpretation and in our view favour the last over the remaining interpretations. Several theoretical issues are raised that need to be resolved before a full account of the data can be offered.