Loquens, Vol 6, No 1 (2019)

Phonology and Writing: Can we look at written productions to “see the unseeable” in phonology?


João Veloso
University of Porto, Portugal (FCT - UID/LIN/0022/2016), Portugal
orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5070-8838


Oral and written productions of language seem to correspond to ontologically separate entities. In this paper, we shall not argue against this basic assumption. However, it will be proposed that a careful examination of the writing systems and of particular written productions can provide phonologists with important information about the nature of phonological representations. Writing systems often originate in relevant intuitions about the nature of phonological units and phenomena and preserve the morphophonemic kinships between roots and words that are surfaced as phonetically distinct. The same can be said about the written productions of pre-school children and illiterate adults, strongly shaped by phonological intuitions rather than by orthographic convention. Bearing in mind that phonology, within the generative approach that is adopted here, is a form of knowledge, spelling can be accepted as a way of getting access to phonological knowledge. Therefore, our main point is that, in spite of the classical divide between spoken and written language, attention to writing can be useful for the understanding of the phonological level, too. The article includes two main parts: firstly, on Sections 2 and 3, we shall survey some general aspects of the relation between phonological and written representations; the second part consists mainly of Section 4 and attempts to illustrate some of the topics presented in Sections 2 and 3 with some data of a small-scale study with Portuguese pre-schoolers.


phonological knowledge; literacy; writing systems; spelling; creative spelling

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