Spelling Proficiency of Native Speakers of Spanish: A Look

Spelling Proficiency of Native Speakers of Spanish: A Look at the Influence of Morpheme
Structures in Spelling Errors
Camille Campion
Mentor: Virginia Mann
This study examines how native Spanish speaking children make orthographical decisions when
spelling in English. English spellings have a “deep” alphabetic representation due to their use of both
morphemes and phonemes, while several other languages, such as Spanish, are “shallow” alphabets
that rely solely on phonemes (Singson, Mahony, & Mann, 2000). Due to issues of language difference
and the written Spanish language’s absence of morpheme representations, I hypothesize that
bilingual native speakers of Spanish will have poorer spelling proficiency than native speakers of
English, especially in the case of derived and inflicted words. This study looks at the spelling
proficiency of intermediate students (6th to 8th grade), both native speakers of English and native
speakers of Spanish. The students are given a 75 word spelling test, consisting of three types of
words that are 3-13 letters long: 1) words whose phonetic realization is close to its orthographic
representation (i.e., “shallow” like yam), 2) words containing an ambiguous segment that require a
greater knowledge of orthographic conventions (i.e.,“deep” like strapped), 3) and words containing
one or more segments which can only be partially derived through morphophonemic knowledge (i.e.,
“irregular” like tongue). The students also receive an oral cloze test to determine how well they
understand the suffixes of English. The data analysis will examine the percentage of errors in relation
to word types. It is predicted that native speakers of English will perform better on “deep” and
“irregular” words and have a better understanding of derived suffixes.