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Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics (Second Edition)

2006, Pages 156-159

English Spelling: Rationale

Author links open overlay panelJ.Mountford []Get rights and content

A change of paradigm is possible regarding English spelling. The bottom-up view of letters and sounds can be replaced by a top-down view, with ‘word’ as the highest unit in a constituency scale which descends through ‘morpheme’ and ‘symbol’ to ‘letter.’ ‘Spelling analysis’ applied to words is twofold: (1) morphemic segmentation, i.e., identifying morphemes and the spelling junctions between them; and (2) symbol segmentation, i.e., identifying the graphophonemic symbols and their phonemic correspondences. Symbols, consisting of one or more letters, are the units of correspondence; letters as such are not. The key to understanding the spelling system is the morpheme, a grammatical unit with symbols as its immediate constituents.

change-junction constituency correspondence (graphophonemic correspondence) nuclear morpheme plus-junction postfix post-nuclear prefix pre-nuclear SOE (Standard Orthography of English) spelling analysis spelling junction spelling system symbol (graphophonemic symbol) writing system

John Mountford taught classics before studying first Applied and then General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. His intention was to teach English as a second language overseas, but he found as great a need for linguistic expertise in the teaching of English as a first language in his home country, and settled in Southampton in teacher-training. An article in 1970 in The Journal of Typographic Research (later Visible Language) entitled ‘Some psycholinguistic components of initial standard literacy’ signaled his interest in literacy, approached linguistically, as opposed to ‘reading,’ approached psychologically. Since then he has published various articles on writing systems in general and on the standard orthography of English in particular, and in 1998 he published a book, An insight into English spelling. He is a Visiting Fellow in the University of Southampton School of Education.

Copyright © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.