Bee Season: The annual spelling bee brings out protesters as well as nerds

Matthew Gordon gordonmj at MISSOURI.EDU
Thu May 31 17:35:17 UTC 2007

As I mentioned the last time you brought up the Paulescu et al. study,
you're misstating their findings. Dyslexia is a neurological issue not
something caused by orthography. It is diagnosed more commonly among English
L1 speakers than among Italians, but that doesn't mean it's actually more
common among English speakers. Again I quote from the study:

"Is dyslexia a disorder with a universal neuro-anatomical basis, or is it a
different disorder in shallow and deep orthographies? Our results are
clear-cut. They show that dyslexia has a universal basis in the brain and
can be characterized by the same neurocognitive deficit. Clearly, the
manifestation in reading behavior is less severe in a shallow orthography
[e.g. Italian]. However, our results show that if more sensitive tests were
available, the neurocognitive deficit would be detected. Although Italian
dyslexics read more accurately than French or English dyslexics, they showed
the same degree of impairment on reading latencies and reading-related
phonological tasks relative to their controls. We conclude that a
phonological processing deficit is a universal problem in dyslexia and
causes literacy problems in both shallow and deep orthographies. However, in
languages with shallow orthography, such as Italian, the impact is less, and
dyslexia has a more hidden existence. By contrast, deep orthographies like
that of English and French may aggravate the literacy impairments of
otherwise mild cases of dyslexia."

Here's the citation for the study:
Paulescu et al. 2001. Dyslexia: Cultural diversity and biological unity.
Science, 291: 2165-7.

-Matt Gordon

On 5/31/07 5:45 AM, "Tom Zurinskas" <truespel at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

> Yet, the SSS keeps trying and has come up with various plans - for good
> reason.  It‚s been shown that English has twice the dyslexics as a
> phonetically consistently spelled languages such as Italian, Paulescu 2001.
> Paulescu thinks that English spelling is the cause.  But is it the cause or
> is it caused by teachers leaving phonetics behind in initial reading
> instruction favoring „whole language‰ instruction, which forbids saying that
> letters stand for sounds (the alphabetical principle)?  Perhaps more the
> latter than the former.

The American Dialect Society -

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