Orthographic constraints on the spelling of German a-sounds
In the framework of the Modular Writing System Theory (Neef 2005a), two levels of representation are distinguished that are relevant for the analysis of phonographic writing systems. These levels are called graphematics and systematic orthography, respectively. In this text, we focus on the latter module. As a case study, we take into account the spelling potential of the German vowels [a] (lax) and [ɑ] (tense). For this purpose, we first discuss the graphematic properties of these two vowels which allows deriving their graphematic solution spaces that capture such spelling variants that are theoretically given in the writing system of German. Subsequently, we use the spelling potential of [a] and [ɑ] to investigate their distribution in the systematic orthography of German. In doing so, we formulate orthographic constraints that regulate the appearance of the spelling variants. These constraints are sensitive for different levels of the German vocabulary. Some of the constraints have already been found relevant for the spelling of other phonemes as well, while others are specific to the two sounds under consideration. This theoretical approach allows analyzing a much broader part of the vocabulary compared to other theories.
Keywords: German, level of vocabulary, systematic orthography, graphematics, writing system
Published online: 12 February 2015
Balestra, Miriam, Annalen Appelt & Martin Neef
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