Date of Award

Winter 12-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



Consonant doubling is a difficult pattern in the English writing system to master because it is inconsistent. In English two-syllable words, consonants are typically doubled after short vowels, a phonological context, but not after any vowel spelled with more than one letter, a graphotactic context. Knowledge about these contexts may help children learn when to use a single or double consonant. Previous theories on spelling development argue that children learn to spell in stages, without learning about phonological or orthographic context until late in the learning process. This study builds on previous research suggesting that children learn spelling patterns through statistical learning earlier than previously thought. In the present study, second, fourth, and sixth grade elementary schoolers, as well as undergraduates, spell disyllabic nonwords to dictation in order to quantify if they consider the previous vowel’s length and spelling when deciding whether to use a word medial consonant doublet. We compare participants’ doubling patterns to those of a grade leveled corpus of English vocabulary. The results indicate that all groups used both phonological and graphotactic context when deciding when to use a consonant doublet, but that only undergraduates’ doubling patterns resembled those of the English vocabulary. These results indicate that if doubling is learned through statistical learning, it takes places over a number of years.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Rebecca Treiman

Committee Members

Kristin Van Engen, Lori Markson


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