Skip to main content Accessibility help

The role of letter names in children's learning of phoneme–grapheme relations

  • Rebecca Treiman (a1), Sarah Weatherston (a1) and Denise Berch (a1)


Three studies were performed to explore the role of letter names in children's learning of correspondences between phonemes and graphemes. Some preschoolers and kindergartners were found to spell initial /w/ as y. They made this error because the name of y, /wai/, begins with /w/. Kindergartners in another study often said that y makes the sound /wdoubt/, even after they had been taught otherwise. Other results suggested that children benefit from letter-name knowledge to spell phonemes such as /b/, which occur at the beginning of a consonant-vowel letter name. Letter-name knowledge is less helpful for phonemes such as /1/, which occur at the end of a vowel-consonant letter name. Our findings suggest that children use their knowledge of letter names and their phonological segmentation skills when they learn the correspondences between phonemes and graphemes. They do not memorize these links in a rote, paired-associate manner.


Corresponding author

Rebecca Treiman, Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, 71 W. Warren Avenue, Detroit, MI 48202. E-mail:


Hide All
Adams, M. J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Ball, E. W. & Blachman, B. A. (1991). Does phoneme awareness training in kindergarten make a difference in early word recognition and developmental spelling? Reading Research Quarterly, 26, 4966.
Bradley, L. & Bryant, P. E. (1983). Categorizing sounds and learning to read – A causal connection. Nature, 301, 419421.
Brady, S. A. & Shankweiler, D. P. (Eds.). (1991). Phonological processes in literacy: A tribute to Isabelle Y. Liberman. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Byrne, B. & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1989). Phonemic awareness and letter knowledge in the child's acquisition of the alphabetic principle. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 313321.
Carroll, J. B., Davies, P. & Richman, B. (1971). Word frequency book. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Derwing, B. L. & Nearey, T. M. (1990). Real-time effects of some intrasyllabic collocational constraints in English. Proceedings of the 1990 International Conference on Spoken Language Processing, 2, 941943.
Derwing, B. L. & Nearey, T. M. (1991). The “vowel-stickiness” phenomenon: Three experimental sources of evidence. Proceedings of the 12th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, 3, 210213.
Gentry, J. R. (1982). An analysis of developmental spelling in GNYS AT WRK. The Reading Teacher, 36, 192200.
Hanna, P. R., Hanna, J. S., Hodges, R. E. & Rudorf, E. H. (1966). Phoneme-grapheme correspondences as cues to spelling improvement. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Jastak, S. & Wilkinson, G. (1984). The Wide Range Achievement Test-Revised. Wilmington, DE: Jastak Associates.
Liberman, I. Y., Shankweiler, D., Fischer, F. W. & Carter, B. (1974). Explicit syllable and phoneme segmentation in the young child. Journal of Erperimental Child Psychology, 18, 201212.
Mason, J. M. (1980). When do children begin to read: An exploration of four year old children's letter and word reading competencies. Reading Research Quarterly, 15, 203227.
Read, C. (1975). Children's categorization of speech sounds in English. NCTE Research Report no. 17. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Rowland, P. T. (1978). To read, write and listen. Philadelphia: Lippincott.
Sawyer, D. J. & Fox, B. J. (Eds.). (1991). Phonological awareness in reading: The evolution of current perspectives. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Smythe, P. C., Stennett, R. G., Hardy, M. & Wilson, H. R. (19701971). Developmental patterns in elementary skills: Knowledge of upper-case and lower-case letter names. Journal of Reading Behavior, 3, 2433.
Stage, S. A. & Wagner, R. K. (1992). The development of young children's phonological and orthographic knowledge as revealed by their spellings. Developmental Psychology. 28, 287296.
Stuart, M. & Coltheart, M. (1988). Does reading develop in a sequence of stages? Cognition, 30, 139181.
Treiman, R. (1984). On the status of final consonant clusters in English syllables. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior. 23, 343356.
Treiman, R. (1992). The role of intrasyllabic units in learning to read and spell. In Glough, P. B., Ehri, L. C. & Treiman, R. (Eds.), Reading acquisition (PP. 65106). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Treiman, R. (1993). Beginning to spell: A study of first-grade children. New York: Oxford University Press.
Treiman, R.(in press). Use of consonant letter names in beginning spelling. Developmental Psychology.
Treiman, R., Berch, D. & Weatherston, S. (1993). Children's use of phoneme-grapheme correspondences in spelling: Roles of position and stress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 112.
Treiman, R. & Weatherston, S. (1992). Effects of linguistic structure on children's ability to isolate initial consonants. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 174181.
Treiman, R. & Zukowski, A. (1991). Levels of phonological awareness. In Brady, S. A. & Shankweiler, D. P. (Eds.), Phonological processes in literacy: A tribute to Isabelle Y. Liberman (pp. 6783). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

The role of letter names in children's learning of phoneme–grapheme relations

  • Rebecca Treiman (a1), Sarah Weatherston (a1) and Denise Berch (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.