The role of linguistic and visual information in spelling: A developmental study

Gloria S. Waters, Maggie Bruck, Melanie Malus-Abramowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


This study investigated the processes that elementary school children use for spelling. Good and poor spellers in grades 3 through 6 spelled words and nonwords that differed in the types of information (phonological, orthographic, morphological, or visual) that could be used to produce their correct spelling. A multiple choice spelling recognition task was also administered. Error rates on words and nonwords were related to the type of information that could be used to determine the correct spelling. Words that could be spelled on the basis of linguistic information were easier than words that could be spelled only on the basis of visual information. While children were sensitive to the linguistic properties of the stimuli, their use and knowledge of various sources of linguistic information was not uniformly developed. Children had the most difficulty with spellings based on morphological information and the least difficulty with those based on invariant sound-spelling relationships. On the dictation and the nonword tasks, younger children and poorer spellers differed from older children and better spellers in the overall level of their knowledge, but all children showed a similar pattern of results suggesting that they did not use different processes to spell words. However, the data from the recognition task suggested that poor spellers may rely more on visual information than good spellers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)400-421
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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