Spelling English Words: Contributions of Phonological, Morphological and Orthographic Processing Skills of Turkish EFL Students in Grades 6-8



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The number of studies examining the simultaneous impact of multi-level metalinguistic skills influencing spelling in English is scarce. Spelling necessitates an integrated and simultaneous working of various linguistic, metalinguistic skills, and socio-cultural (SES) factors. The present study investigates the concurrent influence of multi-level metalinguistic skills including phonological, morphological, and orthographic knowledge in English as well as the impact of socio-cultural factors on EFL spelling of Turkish 6th, 7th, and 8th grade pupils (N= 367). Measures tapping phonological, morphological, and orthographic skills in English (L2) and a background questionnaire were administered to Turkish 6th to 8th grade EFL children recruited in multiple school sites in a city of Turkey.

A robust configural baseline confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) model for all grades confirmed that the observed variables constructed a three-factor model (phono, morpho, ortho), as it was hypothesized. The second-order structural equation model (SEM) confirmed the three metalinguistic skills work simultaneously and they tap into the linguistic repertoire construct, which predicted EFL word-spelling of Turkish 6th, 7th, and 8th grade pupils. This provides converging results with linguistic repertoire theory, which suggests utilizing multiple metalinguistic skills when spelling words and teaching spelling. The final SEM model with the integrated SES factors (i.e., SES, home-literacy, and additional English exposure) also reported good model fit statistics where the English exposure factor had the highest regression coefficient on EFL word spelling outcomes. The spelling error analyses showed parallel findings to the quantitative analyses, that phonology and orthography, but not morphology, were the two significant predictors of word spelling errors by Turkish 6th to 8th graders.

The key findings can inform foreign language teachers about the roles of phonological, morphological, and orthographic processing skills in English spelling. The pedagogical implications of the present study included the importance of directly teaching the three metalinguistic skills when EFL teachers are engaged in spelling instruction. The findings can also inform Turkey?s foreign language education policy decision making by recommending the tailoring of policy and curriculum according to students? needs.