The efficacy of grapheme-phoneme correspondence instruction in reducing the effect of orthographic forms on second language phonology

Bene Bassetti, Tania Cerni, Jackie Masterson

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    The orthographic forms (spellings) of second language (L2) words and sounds affect the pronunciation and awareness of L2 sounds, even after lengthy naturalistic exposure. This study investigated whether instruction could reduce the effects of English orthographic forms on Italian native speakers’ pronunciation and awareness of L2 English sounds. Italians perceive, produce, and judge the same sound as a short sound if it is spelled with one letter and as a long sound if it is spelled with a digraph, due to L1 Italian grapheme-phoneme correspondence (GPC) rules whereby double consonant letters represent long consonants. Totally, 100 Italian learners of English were allocated to two conditions (final n = 88). The participants in the explicit GPC (EGPC) condition discovered English GPC rules relating to sound length through reflection, explicit teaching, and practice; the participants in the passive exposure condition practiced the same words as the EGPC participants, but with no mention of GPCs. Pre- and postintervention production (delayed word repetition) and phonological awareness (rhyme judgment) tasks revealed no positive effects of the instruction. GPC instruction appears to be ineffective in reducing orthographic effects on L2 phonology. Orthographic effects may be impervious to change, whether by naturalistic exposure or by instruction.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)683-705
    Number of pages23
    JournalApplied Psycholinguistics
    Issue number3
    Early online date24 Mar 2022
    Publication statusPublished - May 2022

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    The authors are grateful to Paolo Mairano for managing and performing spoken materials recording and acoustic analyses; David Torgerson for advice on intervention set-up and data analysis; June McCready for advice on pronunciation teaching; Emanuela Buizza and Valentina De Iacovo for contributing to the acoustic analysis; Sheila Verrier for proofreading teaching materials and recording spoken materials. This work was supported by a Leverhulme Trust Research Grant [grant number: RPG 2013 180] awarded to Bassetti and Masterson. The sponsor had no involvement in the conduct of the research or the preparation of the article.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press.


    • group randomised trial
    • orthographic effects
    • phonological awareness
    • pronunciation
    • pronunciation instruction
    • second language phonology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language
    • Psychology(all)


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