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How Children Learn to Write Words$
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Rebecca Treiman and Brett Kessler

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199907977

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199907977.001.0001

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Symbol Shapes

Symbol Shapes

Chapter:
(p.152) Chapter 8 Symbol Shapes
Source:
How Children Learn to Write Words
Author(s):

Rebecca Treiman

Brett Kessler

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199907977.003.0008

In some writing systems, such as Korean, the shape of a letter provides a clue to its linguistic function. Usually, though, the relationship between a symbol of writing and the linguistic units that it represents is arbitrary. However, the shapes of letters and characters themselves are not arbitrary. They have been influenced by several principles, including economy, conservatism, beauty, expressiveness, similarity, contrast, and redundancy. Children learn from an early age about the shapes of writing symbols. This forces them to attend to certain visual details (e.g., left–right orientation in the case of the Latin script) that they have typically ignored. Children learn a good deal about letter shapes informally, but direct instruction in handwriting speeds the process. Corrective feedback plays an important role here, as in other aspects of learning. Learning to produce letters rapidly and automatically is an important foundation for the development of writing skill.

Keywords:   letter, character, left–right orientation, economy, conservatism, similarity, redundancy, contrast, handwriting, feedback, automaticity

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