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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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Letter Names

Letter Names

Chapter:
(p.194) Chapter 9 Letter Names
Source:
How Children Learn to Write Words
Author(s):

Rebecca Treiman

Brett Kessler

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199907977.003.0009

This chapter begins by discussing the principles that underlie systems of letter names in alphabetic writing systems. Chief among these is phonetic iconicity: The name of a letter should contain, and ideally begin with, the sound that it represents. Thus, many letter names (e.g., “bee” for B in English) are acrophonic. Across languages, letter names tend to be short and phonologically similar to one another. A letter name must also be a phonologically legal word of the language. Children apply the skills that they use for vocabulary learning in general to the learning of letter names. Children who are familiar with letter names use the iconicity of the names to help learn the letters’ sounds, as shown by evidence from learners of languages including English, Portuguese, and Hebrew. Debates have arisen about whether children should learn letter names or letter sounds, and the chapter discusses these and other pedagogical issues.

Keywords:   letter name, letter sound, iconicity, acrophonic, vocabulary, phonological similarity, legality

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