Reading and Writing

, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 1107–1128 | Cite as

Spelling errors respect morphology: a corpus study of Hebrew orthography

  • Amalia Bar-OnEmail author
  • Victor Kuperman


The paper aims to account for linguistic and processing factors responsible for the incidence of spelling errors in Hebrew. The theoretical goal is to disentangle a complex interaction between morphology, phonology, and orthography in production of written words. We focused on a specific spelling error in Hebrew: an overt representation of the word-internal segment/i/by the letter Y (י). This Y-insertion goes against the prescriptive spelling rules (cf. substandard MYRPST מירפסת vs conventional MRPST מרפסת,/miʁpeset/‘balcony’) and yet in our data it affects 25% of nouns with an appropriate phonological environment. Corpus analyses of unedited texts further revealed that errors proliferated in lower-frequency words, but their occurrence was much less likely if it would disrupt a morphological unit. These results point to morphology and statistical patterns of language use in Hebrew as major mechanisms driving orthographic learning: the paper discusses repercussions of our findings for theories of reading.


Spelling Morphology Corpus study Hebrew Orthography 



Victor Kuperman’s contribution was partially supported by the Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant RGPIN/402395-2012 415 (Kuperman, PI), the Ontario Early Researcher award (Kuperman, PI), the Canada Research Chair (Tier 2; Kuperman, PI), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Training Grant 895-2016-1008 (Libben, PI), the Canada Foundation for Innovation Leaders Opportunity Fund (Kuperman, PI), and the Lady Davis Visiting Professorship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Communication Disorders, School of Health Sciences, Sackler Faculty of MedicineTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Linguistics and LanguagesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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