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What do spelling errors tell us? Classification and analysis of errors made by Greek schoolchildren with and without dyslexia

Abstract

In this study we propose a classification system for spelling errors and determine the most common spelling difficulties of Greek children with and without dyslexia. Spelling skills of 542 children from the general population and 44 children with dyslexia, Grades 3–4 and 7, were assessed with a dictated common word list and age-appropriate passages. Spelling errors were classified into broad categories, including phonological (graphophonemic mappings), grammatical (inflectional suffixes), orthographic (word stems), stress assignment (diacritic), and punctuation. Errors were further classified into specific subcategories. Relative proportions for a total of 11,364 errors were derived by calculating the opportunities for each error type. Nondyslexic children of both age groups made primarily grammatical and stress errors, followed by orthographic errors. Phonological and punctuation errors were negligible. Most frequent specific errors were in derivational affixes, stress diacritics, inflectional suffixes, and vowel historical spellings. Older children made fewer errors, especially in inflectional suffixes. Dyslexic children differed from nondyslexic ones in making more errors of the same types, in comparable relative proportions. Spelling profiles of dyslexic children did not differ from those of same-age children with poor reading skills or of younger children matched in reading and phonological awareness. In conclusion, spelling errors of both dyslexic and nondyslexic children indicate persistent difficulty with internalizing regularities of the Greek orthographic lexicon, including derivational, inflectional, and word (stem) families. This difficulty is greater for children with dyslexia.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Although diagnosis is typically given without formal testing, due to lack of standardized testing batteries at the time of the study, this population is fully characterized in terms of reading, spelling, and cognitive performance, in comparison to the general population. Further discussion of the diagnostic tests and criteria can be found in Protopapas and Skaloumbakas (2007). See also Anastasiou and Polychronopoulou (2009) for diagnostic practices and associated problems.

  2. 2.

    Validation of the discriminant function against expert judgment for Grade 7 has indicated 99.1 % agreement for cases deemed unambiguous (by two experts); see Protopapas & Skaloumbakas (2007) and Protopapas, Skaloumbakas, & Bali (2008) for the details of these discriminant analyses.

  3. 3.

    The distinguishing measures included, for Grades 3–4: pseudoword repetition, word reading accuracy, passage reading time, and phoneme deletion (based on Protopapas, Skaloumbakas, & Bali, 2008); for Grade 7: pseudoword reading time, word reading accuracy, word reading time, passage reading time (based on Protopapas & Skaloumbakas, 2007).

  4. 4.

    Naturally, they differ in age, passage reading (because passages were different in the two grade groups), and Raven’s matrices (because it is a raw score, unstandardized for age).

  5. 5.

    In Figs. 2 and 3 we report mean proportions because most medians are zero and their display would be less informative. It should be kept in mind, however, that error distributions were highly skewed in many error categories, making patterns of means difficult to interpret directly.

  6. 6.

    The reading-match group does not seem to depart in any way from the general population of Grades 3–4, so the matching process has not resulted in selection of unrepresentative outliers.

  7. 7.

    The maximum proportion of stress errors in the passage is lower than for the word list because the passage included monosyllabic words, written without a diacritic. A stress error on those would have to be an extraneous diacritic. Such errors were rare, vastly outnumbered by omissions.

  8. 8.

    The two words are παιδάκια (/pεðaca/ “kids”), with 143 occurrences (4.84 per million tokens), and παϊδάκια (/paiðaca/ “chops”), with 16 occurrences (0.54 per million).

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Fani Sakellaropoulou for help in spelling error classification and to Vassiliki Diamanti, George K. Georgiou, and Panagiotis G. Simos for comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Athanassios Protopapas.

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Table 5 Opportunities for spelling errors: definitions and counts

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Protopapas, A., Fakou, A., Drakopoulou, S. et al. What do spelling errors tell us? Classification and analysis of errors made by Greek schoolchildren with and without dyslexia. Read Writ 26, 615–646 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-012-9378-3

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Keywords

  • Spelling
  • Spelling errors
  • Error classification
  • Dyslexia
  • Greek