How the international phonological alphabet can help students with phonological dyslexia

According to Zeiger’s blog (2013), more homographic languages seem to have a lower number of people with dyslexics. A homographic language has a 1 to 1 correspondence between written symbols and phonetic sound (Trask, 1995). An example of such a language is Japanese (Dyszy-Chudzinska, 2009). English is not such a language and according to George (1972), increasing the homographic nature of the English language could help people with dyslexia. In the English alphabet (Roman alphabet), letters often have a number of different phonetic sounds (Iribarren, 2007). The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is a more homographic solution in representing the English language (Heterography and homography, 2013; Trask, 1996). According to Funnell and Davison (1989) people with dyslexia have problems with phonetically rules with both reading word out load and spelling. Teaching people with dyslexia the IPA would increase the homographic nature of written English. This could increase the accuracy of people with dyslexic in reading and spelling.

An interesting case study is the one of Louise. Research by Funnell and Davison (1989) looked at a woman who had been diagnosed with both phonological dyslexia and dyspraxia. They compared using the Roman alphabet  verses the IPA in a number of tasks, which tested spelling, reading and remembering novel stimuli. Funnell and Davison (1989) found when words were shown to her in the format of IPA her ability to read, spell, and remember of novel stimuli were significantly better when Louise used IPA compared to the Roman alphabet. According to Funnell and Davison (1989) a possible reason for the results was, the subject could not use her lexical knowledge. There are two pathways in how language is analysed, according to the dual-route theory: lexical knowledge and sub lexical (Morton & Patterson, 1980). Lexical knowledge is a mental dictionary, which stores your vocabulary (Pritchard et al., 2012). While the non-lexical is a person’s strategy of pronouncing words, using a word’s constituent parts e.g. graphemes, phonemes and letters (Heterography and homography, 2013; Pritchard et al., 2012). Funnell and Davison (1989) stated errors which dyslexics make in pronunciation and spelling occur because of  “lexical capture”. Lexical capture is when dyslexics make a error by guessing the word using a similar word in their lexical knowledge (Pritchard et al., 2012). Funnell and Davison (1989) presumed the reason for such a lexical strategy (Pritchard et al., 2012) in the case of Louise was because at early age she had hearing problems. Following the assumption of Funnell and Davison (1989); any condition, which effects the non-lexical processing of letters, will cause the person to rely more on their lexical knowledge.

Hopefully the strategy of using the IPA for reading and spelling will do two things. Firstly IPA would force dyslexics to use their non-lexical pathway. This is because words in this alphabetic format would not be stored in their lexical knowledge. Thus people with dyslexic would have to use their sub lexical analysis of words, thus practicing it. This would hopefully mean that though constant use; people would be trained to use their sub lexical processes. Secondly, just making the English alphabet more homographic could improve reading, spelling and ability to learn of people with dyslexia.

Many of my blogs have looked at how technology can be used in education to help students learn. When researching this, I came across a number of programs, which in conjunction could help implement the IPA strategy to help people with dyslexia. Firstly there are lessons on YouTube, which teach people the IPA. Secondly there is a tool, which converts text to IPA. Finally, Huckvale (2009) created an overlay for a regular keyboard, which allows you to type in IPA. Using these programs together, people could become fluent in IPA and use it day to day activates.

Overall it seems using IPA instead of the Roman alphabet could significantly help people with dyslexia in learning. As a person with dyslexia, this research has motivated me to try to practice what I am preaching and see if using IPA can make a real difference in my learning.


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Funnell, E., & Davison, M. (1989). Lexical capture: A developmental disorder of reading and spelling. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 41(3), 471-487.

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Morton, J. & Patterson, K. E. (1980). A new attempt at an interpretation, or, an attempt at a new interpretation. In M. Coltheart, K. E. Patterson, & J. C. Marshall (Eds.), Deep dyslexia, (pp. 91-1 18). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Pritchard, S. C., Coltheart, M., Palethorpe, S., & Castles, A. (2012). Nonword reading: Comparing dual-route cascaded and connectionist dual-process models with human data. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 38(5), 1268.

Trask, R. L. (1995). A dictionary of phonetics and phonology. Psychology Press.

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Wydell, T. N., & Butterworth, B. (1999). A case study of an English-Japanese bilingual with monolingual dyslexia. Cognition, 70(3), 273-305.

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The best course in University so far

Originally this blog was going to be about science of education has broken my formal education. No longer will I sit in a lecture, thinking it must be the best way of learning. Or when I learn almost nothing in a lesson, I know it is not just me, it can be the teaching.

However towards the end of my blogs I changed my mind. Science of education has not broken my formal education; it has given me a new way of approaching education. My new philosophy on learning is, by starting learning by yourself and use the teacher’s notes as guidelines. Previously I have solely relied on the teachers notes, I have created over 100 mind-maps and box full of SAFMEDS. Thinking back now I ask for what? Out of these countless number of memory aids, how many of them do I remember? Even more important how much of it did I enjoy learning the information? The answer two both these questions are not much.

This is the sad thing about the current broken educational system. Students see learning as a means to and end, the learning is something you plough though to get to what you really want. However under different circumstances you can love what is being taught. Science of education would have been tedious if it had followed the time old tradition of peddling though old, out-dated theories. We have had this type of teaching for almost our entire life lives. When Jesse decided to design this class under the model of the MUSIC model, it transformed the class from a teaching cage to learning environment. Which almost everyone I have talked to have enjoyed.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this model and could easily say this has been my favourite course in my whole university career. I feel that such methods of teaching could be used across the whole of university. Including my other third year model.