suzmccarth wrote:
> Hi STeve, I read this in your bibliogarphy:
> "Read, C, 1986. Children's creative spelling. London: Routledge &
> Kegan Paul. This is only part of the wealth of evidence that young
> children `naturally ` spell concisely and economically. e.g. `Th
> plan mad a fosd ladig at th epot' [see invented spellings]"
> In my observation the senence would go through these stages.
> DPMFLATA - One symbol per word
> DPMDFLDATAP - One symbol per syllable ('at the' becomes AT, as
> previous t devoices th)
> [...]

Not to be wary of you, but is this really "your observation", or is it the
common persuasion among teachers?

I ask this because the stages of development you describe are exactly the
same which have been described to me also by the teachers of my 6 y.o. kid.
And exactly the same stages of development I have found in some books about
didactics of writing which I got from my local library (I don't recall the
titles, sorry).

However, while I could witness myself the "One symbol per syllable" stage in
my own son's attempts to write (as well as in the attempts by his school
friends), so far I have not yet seen a single convincing example of the "One
symbol per word" stage.

Two years ago, when my son was 4, his teachers organized an exhibitions of
writing samples produced by children of various ages (2 to 7 y.o.) collected
in various parts of Italy, including my son's kindergarten class, which was
part of that experiment. The samples were subdivided in exactly the same
stages that you described, which were labeled as "ideographic" (sic),
"syllabic" and "phonemic".

All the samples were accompanied by a "translation" in "adults' writing"
which was added by the teacher by asking the kid what (s)he had written.

However, the samples classified in the "ideographic" stage (or, in your more
correct terms, "one symbol per word" stage) were highly unconvincing: it was
clear that the children did trace some abstact signs resembling writing, and
that some of those signs were recognizably inspired by actual Roman(*)

(* Not only Roman letters, actually. In my son's attempts there were also
several instances of a Greek capital Psi. My son used that sign especially
to "spell" the name of fishes or other sea animals, and the teachers were
delighted when they discovered that, the previous summer, we spent our
holydays in Greece, and that our hotel room was just in front of the sign of
a "PSAROTAVERNA" ('seafood restaurant'). They immediately assumed that he
had associated the initial PSI with seafood and, hence, with fish. But I
made them notice that, for obvious reasons, we do not normally stress the
relationship between the meat or seafood that the kid finds in his dish and
the "poor" living animals which got killed to obtain it. Moreover, I made
them notice that the sign occurred also in "words" which had nothing to do
with fish, Greece, or restaurants.)

However, in almost no case there was an actual correspondence between the
NUMBER of words in the "translation" and the number of symbols in the
"written" text.

And, indeed, it is not surprising that children cannot correctly "count" the
"words" in a sentence, considering that the very concept or "word" derives
from the knowledge of formal grammar and of writing itself (specially from
word-spacing), which children as supposed to acquire at a much later stage.
Notice that linguist themselves cannot come up with an agreed-upon
definition of what the term "word"! On the other hand, the concept of
"syllable" seems to be much more intuitive and natural, as without that
concept children would be unable to understand (and thus sing aloud) the
prosody of nursery songs.

All this was to say that I am a bit skeptical about some hypothesis about
writing which seem to be considered commonplace by Western schoolteachers,
especially when they include the controversial concept of "ideography", and
even more so when they seem to consider the apparently Euro-centric idea of
an evolutive path which goes "ideograms -> syllabograms -> alphabet",
considered as the universal and natural evolution from "primitive" to
"civilized" forms of writing.


P.S. Sorry for being so verbose today...