Alphabetic Principle and English Orthography

Beginning readers must understand the concept of the alphabetic principle in order to master basic reading skills. A writing system is said to be alphabetic if it uses symbols to represent individual language sounds. In contrast, syllabic writing systems (such as Japanese kana) and Chinese hanzi use a symbol to represent a single syllable .

Alphabetic writing systems vary in complexity. For example, Spanish is an orthography in the Latin alphabetic Writing system that has a nearly perfect one-to-one correspondence of symbols to individual sounds. In Spanish a shallow orthography, most of the time words are spelled the way they sound, that is, word spellings are almost always regular; . English a deep orthography, on the other hand, is far more complex in that it does not have a one-to-one correspondence between symbols and sounds. English has individual sounds that can be represented by more than one symbol or symbol combination. For example, the long |a| sound can be represented by a-consonant-e as in ate, -ay as in hay, -ea as in steak, -ey as in they, -ai as in pain, and -ei as in vein. In addition, there are many words with irregular spelling and many homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings and often different spellings as well). Pollack Pickeraz (1963) asserted that there are 45 phonemes in the English language, and that the 26 letters of the English alphabet can represent the 45 phonemes in about 350 ways.

It should be noted that the irregularity of English spelling is largely an artifact of how the language developed. English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian and Old Saxon dialects brought to Britain by Germanic settlers and Roman auxiliary troops from various parts of what is now northwest Germany and the northern Netherlands in the 5th century. One of these Germanic tribes were the Angles, who may have come from Angeln, and Bede wrote that their whole nation came to Britain, leaving their former land empty. The names 'England' (or 'Aenglaland') and English are derived from the name of this tribe.
The Anglo Saxons began invading around 449 AD from the regions of Denmark and Jutland, Before the Anglo-Saxons arrived in England the native population spoke Brythonic, a Celtic language. Although the most significant changes in dialect occurred after the Norman invasion of 1066, the language retained its name and the pre-Norman invasion dialect is now known as Old English. Germanic language a constituent part of Indo-Europeanlanguage system; and it has substantial influences from Latin, Greek, and French, among others. Over its history, English adopted vocabulary from many languages, and the imported words usually follow the spelling patterns of their language of origin. Advanced English phonics instruction includes studying words according to their origin, and how to determine the correct spelling of a word using its language of origin.

Clearly, the complexity of English orthography makes it more difficult for children to learn decoding and encoding rules, and more difficult for teachers to teach them. However, effective word recognition relies on the basic understanding that letters represent the sounds of spoken language, that is, word recognition relies on the reader's understanding of the alphabetic principle.

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