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The Spelling Errors of French and English Children With Developmental Language Disorder at the End of Primary School

  • Joye, Nelly
  • Dockrell, Julie E.
  • Marshall, Chloë R.
Published Article
Frontiers in Psychology
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Jul 21, 2020
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01789
PMID: 32793078
PMCID: PMC7386207
PubMed Central


Children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) often struggle learning to spell. However, it is still unclear where their spelling difficulties lie, and whether they reflect on-going difficulties with specific linguistic domains. It is also unclear whether the spelling profiles of these children vary in different orthographies. The present study compares the spelling profiles of monolingual children with DLD in France and England at the end of primary school. By contrasting these cohorts, we explored the linguistic constraints that affect spelling, beyond phono-graphemic transparency, in two opaque orthographies. Seventeen French and 17 English children with DLD were compared to typically developing children matched for age or spelling level. Participants wrote a 5 min sample of free writing and spelled 12 controlled dictated words. Spelling errors were analyzed to capture areas of difficulty in each language, in the phonological, morphological, orthographic and semantic domains. Overall, the nature of the errors produced by children with DLD is representative of their spelling level in both languages. However, areas of difficulty vary with the language and task, with more morphological errors in French than in English across both tasks and more orthographic errors in English than in French dictated words. The error types produced by children with DLD also differed in the two languages: segmentation and contraction errors were found in French, whilst morphological ending errors were found in English. It is hypothesized that these differences reflect the phonological salience of the units misspelled in both languages. The present study also provides a detailed breakdown of the spelling errors found in both languages for children with DLD and typical peers aged 5–11.

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