University Of Tasmania

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Lexical classification and spelling: Do people use atypical spellings for atypical pseudowords?

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 16:19 authored by Nenagh KempNenagh Kemp, Treiman, R, Blackley, H, Svoboda, JD, Kessler, B
Many English phonemes have more than one possible spelling. People’s choices among the options may be influenced by sublexical patterns, such as the identity of neighboring sounds within the word. However, little research has explored the possible role of lexical conditioning. Three experiments examined the potential effects of one such factor: whether an item is typical of English or atypical. In Experiment 1, we asked whether presenting pseudowords as made-up words or the names of monsters would cause participants to classify them as atypical and spell phonemes within these pseudowords using less common patterns. This was not found to be the case in children (aged 7–12 years) or adults. In Experiment 2, children aged 10–12 and adults spelled pseudowords that contained phonologically frequent or infrequent sequences and, in Experiment 3, adults chose between two possible spellings of each of these pseudowords. Adults, but not children, used more common spellings in pseudowords that contained frequent sequences and that thus seemed more typical of English. They used fewer common spellings in pseudowords that contained infrequent sequences and therefore seemed atypical. These results suggest that properties of pseudowords themselves can affect lexical classification and hence spelling.


Publication title

Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal










School of Psychological Sciences


Springer Netherlands

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2015 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Communication not elsewhere classified