Paper Example on Orthographic Depth

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  878 Words
Date:  2022-07-27

What Is Orthographic Depth?

Orthographic depth can be defined as the level in which a written language veers from the one-letter distinct sound. There are two types of orthographic depth which are, shallow orthographies and deep orthographies. In shallow orthographic depth, there is relative ease in uttering the words while in deep orthographies it is challenging to make the pronunciation of some words. Analyzing the shallow orthographic further, one can determine that there is a direct similarity in the spelling-sound and based on the dictations of the pronunciation one can accurately pronounce a word based on the letters. Deep orthographies, on the other hand, refers to a relationship which is less straightforward and it requires the student to learn unusual pronunciation of irregular words (Siegel & Geva, 2000). This is to mean that, in deep orthographies, there is no direct relationship between the sounds and the letters that represent them.

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Two of the language which varies in the orthographic depths are English and Hebrew. Based on research done, it can be concluded that English has a more complex orthographic cipher. This is because English has a total of 26 letters which spreads to more than 36 phonemes (Siegel & Geva, 2000). To come up with the value of some phonemes, one might have to consider more than one letter. On top of this, there are idiosyncratic words in English that cannot be pronounced either by analogy or by rule; such words include words like 'yacht' which needs to be learned individually. However, Hebrew contains only 22 letters, and it is read from right to left. Unlike English, Hebrew vowels are placed in the form of dots and dashes and are positioned below, above to the left or within the consonants. This makes voweled Hebrew a shallow orthography because it has a direct and almost straightforward correspondence between the graphemes and phonemes. The similarity also applies to the consonants and vowels alike.

How Does Orthographic Depth Affect Reading Acquisition in Different Languages?

The orthographic hypothesis suggests that as a learner moves from shallow to deep alphabets, reading acquisition becomes more difficult. This affects the ability of the leader to learn and become more conversant with the language because some languages have shallow (unambiguous) orthographic and thus are more comfortable to study and remember than those with deep (ambiguous) orthographic. In other words, the deeper the orthographic depth, the more irregular, inconsistent and opaque a language becomes to the learners. This evidence can be cited in the article by Geva and Siegel, 2000 which researches by studying the skills of 245 students in grades 1-5 and were learning the English language as the first language (L1) and Hebrew as the second language (L2).

Based on the research by Siegel and Geva, it can be determined that due to the shallow depths of the voweled Hebrew, the students could read the words more easily. However, the study showed that despite English being the first language, the children expressed difficulties in the developmental profiles associated with English words recognition, and pseudoword decoding. This is because unlike Hebrew, English has a more profound orthographic language (Siegel & Geva, 2000). From Geva and Siegel's research it is right to conclude that when a script is less complicated, children develop their word recognition skills with ease.

Seymour et al.'s (2003) paper refer to two main reading mechanisms/strategies/foundations that are used in reading. Geva & Siegel (2000) provide evidence from an analysis of errors that supports the two same mechanisms. What are these mechanisms? Explain how different types of errors (analyzed in Geva x96) can reveal reliance on different mechanisms.

The two central reading mechanisms are the word recognition and decoding of words. Word recognition can be defined as the ability of the leader to identify a written word virtually and pronounce it without much straining. On the other hand decoding of words is the ability of the reader to combine letters to their sounds and identify the patterns that make syllables and words (Seymour, Aro, & Erskine, 2003). According to the Geva and Siegel's research (2000) the error patterns in word recognition were categorized into six categories which included the following; similar words errors, vowel error, order, no stress errors, visual errors and the production errors. Looking deep at these errors one can establish how interconnected the different mechanisms of learning are; for example, similar word errors could indicate that despite the children being able to produce a legitimate word, it had a different meaning such as apply instead of apple (Siegel & Geva, 2000). This automatically affected the ability of the students to decode a word based on the letters and thus established a direct link between word recognition and decoding. In sum, the results of the research also indicated a strong correlation between the success of the reading mechanism and the orthography related, where in English language both reading level and age were associated with various error categories. However, in Hebrew, the age was only marginally associated with accuracy in word decoding


Seymour, P. H., Aro, M., & Erskine, J. M. (2003). Foundation literacy acquisition in European orthographies. British Journal of Psychology, 94(2), 143-174. doi:10.1348/000712603321661859

Siegel, L., & Geva, E. (2000). Orthographic and Cognitive Factors in the Concurrent Development of Basic ReadingSkills in English and Persian. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 49(2), 183-217. doi:10.1111/0023-8333.00087

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