The Malay language has a transparentmorphological system and, unlike English, it iswritten in a very shallow alphabetic-syllabicscript. We predicted that beginner spellers(six- to eight-year-olds) of this Rumi script wouldencode words at the level of the syllable andmorpheme, rather than the phoneme. Using theresults of a 75-item spelling test, we groupedchildren (N = 97) into three stages ofspelling proficiency, and analyzed their errorson subsets of stem words (n = 15 CV-CVClexemes) and affixed words (n = 10prefix + stem + suffix). The data show adevelopmental progression in the use ofmeta-linguistic awareness that does not includeuntutored phoneme–grapheme correspondences:Stage 1 children were more likely to preservestem syllables (CVs) and affixes than singlephonemes; Stage 2 spellers were able to combineCV units; and Stage 3 children, the mostproficient group, spelled almost all prefixesand affixes correctly even when the target wasa low familiarity word. Even though Rumi ismore predictable than English at thephoneme–grapheme level, Malay children's earlyspellings are based on their knowledge ofsyllables and morphemes, large-size units thatare reinforced in the classroom.
Reading and Writing – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 18, 2004
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