Characteristics of preschoolers' early spelling in Hebrew

Dorit Aram*, Hadar Hazan, Michal Zohar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Before formal instruction, preschoolers represent words in print in various degrees of conventionality. Unlicensed letters are letters that have no connection to the word that the child is aiming to write; they are neither licensed by phoneme-grapheme rules nor by orthographical representations in the mental lexicon. In the current paper, we explore the characteristics of unlicensed letters in the written products of Hebrew-speaking children. Specifically, we examined the role of statistical learning in predicting specific categories of unlicensed letters in preschoolers’ spelling, focusing on letters that are present/absent in the child’s first name, letters that are more/less frequent in the Hebrew scripts, letters that can spell vowels/consonant, letters that are visually similar/dissimilar, and letters that are easy/difficult to produce graphically. We also evaluated the role of the children’s writing level and individual indices (age, gender, socioeconomic status, length of the first name) in predicting the use of these categories. The writing outputs (N = 733 words), written by 152 preschoolers (M = 63.9 months, SD = 6.90), were analyzed and yielded 2109 unlicensed letters. Results indicated that the unlicensed letters in children’s early spellings contained significantly more letters with high frequency in Hebrew texts, consonant letters, letters that are visually similar to other letters, and letters that are easy to produce graphically. The child’s writing level, age, gender, and length of the first name, uniquely explained the use of each of the categories of unlicensed letters. Parents and teachers should learn about children's writing and spelling development to support their writing appropriately.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-515
Number of pages25
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Early writing
  • Invented spelling
  • Prephonological spelling
  • Random letters
  • Statistical learning


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