Dr. Judith M. Newman

Spelling Patterns in English


  Sound Patterns Structural Patterns  Meaning Patterns  
    Prefixes   Assessment  
    Multi-Syllabic Words   1-1-1 Rule   References  

English orthography is a complicated business. Standardization of spelling in English is a relatively recent idea. It wasn't until Samuel Johnson published his "A Dictionary of the English Language in 1775 that written English began to show stable spellings.

Spelling is not, as most people think, just a metter of learning some letter sound correspondences. Becoming a proficient speller requires learners to develop a set of predictions about the frequency of letter combinations, the likelihood of a word being spelled in a particular way. Proficient spelling also depends on having an understanding of the way in which grammatical, or syntactic, structure affects the way words are spelled. There are also a host of spelling conventions that derive from the "rule" that words having a connected meaning should look the same. The history of words is also encoded in their spelling - words which had their origins in Latin have different predictable letter patterns from words that are Germanic in orgin. English orthography is as much about how words look as it is with how they sound.

In otherwords, there are three main factors involved in learning to make sense of spelling:

For more information on the structure of English orthography and spelling development check out the references.