Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Major Professor

Ruth Huntley Bahr, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Elaine R. Silliman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stefan A. Frisch, Ph.D.


phonology, orthography, morphology, POMAS, qualitative scoring systems


Previous research investigations in the area of spelling development have adopted

two approaches, the broad approach and the narrow approach. The broad approach

suggests that spelling develops in sequential stages whereas the narrow approach focuses

on individual linguistic patterns. However, research findings have revealed that children’s

spellings do not exhibit errors pertaining to specifically one stage or reflecting one

linguistic element, yet a research void exists in resolving how these two approaches

might intermix.

This study examined the spelling errors of typically developing children in first

through fourth grades (N = 400) to determine the quantitative and qualitative differences

in misspellings among grade levels. Each grade level had an equal representation of

children (N = 100) and male and female participants. The spelling errors were extracted

from two writing samples completed by the children, a narrative and expository sample.

In an attempt to combine the broad and narrow approaches, a coding system was

designed to evaluate the linguistic category (phonological, orthographic, morphological)

and specific features (letter name spelling, vowel error, digraph, etc.) of the spelling


The findings revealed a significant interaction between grade level and error type

for phonologically-based spelling errors (1

st graders made more errors than 2nd and 4th

graders) and a greater number of morphological errors was noted in 4

th vs. 2nd grade. No

significant effects were noted for writing genre or gender. Analysis of performance

patterns for specific linguistic category errors within and across grade levels revealed that

all four grade levels committed the most phonological errors in the PSE (phonological –

silent /e/) and PSON (phonological – sonorant clusters) categories. The OLN

(orthographic – letter name) and ODI (orthographic – digraph) errors also occurred

frequently in all four grades with first graders demonstrating significantly more

occurrences of the OLN than ODI error. Morphological findings revealed that first

graders made significantly more MINF (morphological – inflection) than MHOM

(morphological – homonym) errors and all four grades had significantly more MINF than

MCON (morphological – contraction) errors. A qualitative analysis regarding the most

frequently misspelled words and most frequently encountered codes was also performed.

The clinical and educational implications of these findings are discussed.