spelling rules, English vocalic system, Surface Analogy


Previous psycholinguistic research into the English vocalic system suggest that the vowel alternations [ei-re, ii-£, ai-1, ow- a, u"-A], termed SPELLING RULE ALTERNATIONS, are psychologically significant for English speakers, in that they can influence the pronunciation of unfamiliar words. In this paper, the influence of these salient alternations on nonce words and neologisms is assessed. The effect of su1face analogy on the pronunciation of novel words is also examined. Surface analogy may be defined as the influence exerted by the fu lly specified surface forms of the morphemic relatives of a word. It assumes that all allomorphs of a given morpheme have individual representation in the mental lexicon.

An experiment was performed in which the participants' task was to determine the pronunciation of a nonce word or neologism when it was combined with a derivational suffix to form a new word. The potential pronunciations of the new words differed in their vowels. A response that contained the same vowel as the test word was a choice in all test items. Other potential responses contained vowels consistent with the spelling rules, vowels predicted by surface analogy, and vowels predicted by neither. The results indicate that the responses were influenced both by the spelling rule alternations and by the vowels in the morphemic relatives of the test words. However, the spelling rule alternations exerted more influence than did the morphemic relatives.

Original Publication Citation

2001. “Surface Analogy and Spelling Rules in English Vowel Alternations.” Southwest Journal of Linguistics 20. 85-105.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Linguistic Association of the Southwest







University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

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