The concurrent development of spelling and decoding in two different orthographies

Esther Geva, Lesly Wade-Woolley, Michal Shany

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The hypothesis that differences between first language (L1) and second language (L2) reading and spelling profiles could be accounted for by lack of proficiency in the L2 or differences in orthographic complexity was explored in a longitudinal study of 45 children acquiring reading and spelling skills concurrently in English (L1) and Hebrew (L2). The children were tested in Grades 1 and 2 on literacy measures in both languages. Neither of these explanations alone sufficed to explain the development of reading and spelling in the two languages. The less complex Hebrew orthography facilitated subjects’ decoding performance, but failed to maintain that facilitation in spelling. Depressed second language effects were apparent in spelling but not in decoding, which actually favoured the subjects’ L2. Developmental findings showed that, despite L1-L2 differences in orthographic complexity and language proficiency, the profiles of emergent spelling in both languages are strikingly similar. The rate of acquisition of conventional spelling, however, differentiates L1 from L2 performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-406
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Literacy Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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