Representation of letter position in spelling: Evidence from acquired dysgraphia

Simon Fischer-Baum, Michael McCloskey, Brenda Rapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The graphemic representations that underlie spelling performance must encode not only the identities of the letters in a word, but also the positions of the letters. This study investigates how letter position information is represented. We present evidence from two dysgraphic individuals, CM and LSS, who perseverate letters when spelling: that is, letters from previous spelling responses intrude into subsequent responses. The perseverated letters appear more often than expected by chance in the same position in the previous and subsequent responses. We used these errors to address the question of how letter position is represented in spelling. In a series of analyses we determined how often the perseveration errors produced maintain position as defined by a number of alternative theories of letter position encoding proposed in the literature. The analyses provide strong evidence that the grapheme representations used in spelling encode letter position such that position is represented in a graded manner based on distance from both-edges of the word.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)466-490
Number of pages25
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Dysgraphia
  • Letter perseveration errors
  • Letter-position coding
  • Orthographic processing
  • Spelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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