Reading and Writing

, Volume 28, Issue 7, pp 1013–1028 | Cite as

Spelling in African American children: the case of final consonant devoicing

  • Rebecca Treiman
  • Margo Bowman


This study examined the effect of dialect variation on children’s spelling by using devoicing of final /d/ in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) as a test case. In line with the linguistic interference hypothesis, African American 6-year-olds were significantly poorer at spelling the final d of words such as salad than non-African American students after their spelling performance on other parts of the words was statistically taken into account. Specifically, African American students were more likely than non-African American students to produce spelling errors such as salat for salad. Such misspellings were particularly common in African American children who showed higher rates of devoicing when pronouncing the words. African American students did not have more difficulty than non-African American students in spelling the final t of words such as planet. The results suggest that the spellings of some words are particularly opaque for speakers of AAVE and that instruction should take account of this opacity.


Spelling African American English Dialect Phonology Literacy Achievement gap Linguistic interference 



This research was supported in part by NIH Grant 051610. Thanks to Suzanne Bick, Rigel Dawson, Kristina Decker, and Nicole Rosales for their assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

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