The French National Research Agency Projects for science

Voir cette page en français

ANR funded project

JCJC - SHS 2 - Développement humain et cognition, langage et communication (JCJC SHS 2) 2011
Projet OLGA

Lexical and grammatical spelling : Acquisition

The written language skill is particularly difficult in French because of the depth of its spelling. French language is characterized by a lexical inconsistency and by an opacity of the morphological marks without phonological clues. The learning of written language is quite long and may compromise school results and social integration. It then requires evaluating tools to help teachers to detect as rapidly as possible pupils with spelling difficulties. It is also necessary to better understand how pupils acquire the various skills allowing them to face with lexical and grammatical difficulties of French language, so as to intervene more efficiently for remediation. Usually the two aspects of spelling – lexical and grammatical – are studied separately. Theoretical models and empirical studies concern either the acquisition and the processing of lexical spelling or the acquisition and the processing of grammatical spelling, which is globally managed by rules (e.g., “it is necessary to add a –s at the end of plural nouns”).
However, research carried out during these last 15 years have brought to light that children would implicitly acquire some pieces of knowledge about the structure of their language, which would help them to manage as well lexical processing of irregularities (i.e., double letters) as grammatical processing, some associations being automatically processed without the systematic use of rules. The implicit and probabilistic learning of the language structure could then be the common denominator of the acquisition of the various dimensions of spelling.
The objective is to propose a precise description of spelling acquisition, from 1st to 9th grade. The hypothesis is that the facilitating effects for lexical spelling, such as word frequency and consistency should be replicated for grammatical spelling. This work would allow us to propose a unique – integrated – developmental model and to elaborate a spelling test adapted to this theoretical framework.
A first series of experiments is designed to analyze the impact of word frequency, spelling consistency and length on the acquisition of lexical spelling. These variables will be estimated through a dictation of non-words and words administered to 1st to 9th graders and to an adult control group. These lexical performances will be compared with a measure of “empirical consistency” (evaluation of the “internal” consistency for one participant) on pairs of words matched on the phonological rhyme that are more or less consistent.
The second experiment aims at estimating, with the same participants as previously, several grammatical skills, through an incomplete dictation. This task will take into account several difficulties caused by the inaudible aspect of several agreements in French: the genre, the number, the agreement of the past participle and the grammatical homophones. These words will be systematically characterized in terms of frequency and spelling consistency (Manulex-infra).
The lexico-grammatical tasks are concerned with the derivational morphology and the inflexional morphology, by manipulating the frequency and the consistency of homophonous forms in order to study the interaction between lexical and grammatical dimensions of spelling. On-line (pauses before and during transcribing and handwriting duration) and off-line (errors produced) measures will be carried out in order to precise the level of analyses.
The results of these studies will allow us to elaborate a spelling test, carefully controlled on the psycholinguistic characteristics of the items and based on actual theories, in order to mitigate the current lack in this domain. This test – with lexical and grammatical subtests – would be standardized from 1st to 9th grade. It should allow teachers to better evaluate and to surround children’s spelling difficulties.



ANR grant: 131 930 euros
Beginning and duration: janvier 2012 - 36 mois


ANR Programme: JCJC - SHS 2 - Développement humain et cognition, langage et communication (JCJC SHS 2) 2011

Project ID: ANR-11-JSH2-0007

Project coordinator:


Back to the previous page


The project coordinator is the author of this abstract and is therefore responsible for the content of the summary. The ANR disclaims all responsibility in connection with its content.