Spelling acquisition in English and Italian: a cross-linguistic study

Chiara V. Marinelli*, Cristina Romani, Cristina Burani, Pierluigi Zoccolotti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined the spelling acquisition in children up to late primary school of a consistent orthography (Italian) and an inconsistent orthography (English). The effects of frequency, lexicality, length, and regularity in modulating spelling performance of the two groups were examined. English and Italian children were matched for both chronological age and number of years of schooling. Two-hundred and seven Italian children and 79 English children took part in the study. We found greater accuracy in spelling in Italian than English children: Italian children were very accurate after only 2 years of schooling, while in English children the spelling performance was still poor after 5 years of schooling. Cross-linguistic differences in spelling accuracy proved to be more persistent than the corresponding ones in reading accuracy. Orthographic consistency produced not only quantitative, but also qualitative differences, with larger frequency and regularity effects in English than in Italian children.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1843
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2015 Marinelli, Romani, Burani and Zoccolotti. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Supplementary data availalbe on online :http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.


  • children
  • cross-linguistic comparison
  • lexical effects
  • orthographic consistency
  • spelling acquisition


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