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The case of case: Children's knowledge and use of upper- and lowercase letters



Research on children's spelling has focused on its phonological bases. In the present study, we examined a type of nonphonological knowledge that even young children may possess—knowledge about the distinction between upper- and lowercase letters. In Study 1, we analyzed the capitalization patterns used by children in kindergarten through second grade on words that did not contain a capital letter in their conventional spellings. The younger children, especially, often wrote with capital letters. They did so in a nonrandom way, being more likely to capitalize word-initial letters than later letters. When children inserted an uppercase letter in a noninitial position of a spelling, it tended to be a letter whose uppercase form was especially familiar to the child, the initial letter of the child's first name. In Study 2, which examined kindergartners' knowledge of the names of upper- and lowercase letters, we found further evidence that children's names influence their knowledge about letters and that some of this knowledge is case specific. Together, the results show that early spelling involves more than phonology.


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Department of Psychology, Campus Box 1125, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899. E-mail:


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The case of case: Children's knowledge and use of upper- and lowercase letters



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