We examined the spelling acquisition in children up to late primary school of a consistent orthography (Italian) and an inconsistent orthography (English). The effects of frequency, lexicality, length, and regularity in modulating spelling performance of the two groups were examined. English and Italian children were matched for both chronological age and number of years of schooling. Two-hundred and seven Italian children and 79 English children took part in the study. We found greater accuracy in spelling in Italian than English children: Italian children were very accurate after only 2 years of schooling, while in English children the spelling performance was still poor after 5 years of schooling. Cross-linguistic differences in spelling accuracy proved to be more persistent than the corresponding ones in reading accuracy. Orthographic consistency produced not only quantitative, but also qualitative differences, with larger frequency and regularity effects in English than in Italian children.
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