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The American Way of Spelling: The Structure and Origins of American English Orthography Hardcover – July 23, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-1572304697 ISBN-10: 1572304693 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Guilford Press; 1 edition (July 23, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572304693
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572304697
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #688,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Spoken language, move over--writing has earned equal presence. This inspiring work makes transparent the hidden structure of written language. Venezky's measured guidance on reading instruction is most timely. Language scholars, teachers, and anyone who appreciates the written word will covet this book." --Dominic W. Massaro, PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz

"The reading wars have outlasted virtually every other world conflict, mostly because the combatants have only a vague idea of what they are fighting about. Venezky's account of the nature of the English spelling-sound system may not end the wars, but it helps those of us who have to keep the world going--scholars, researchers, teachers, and teacher educators. Teachers and students who immerse themselves in this volume will view the world of spelling and phonics through much clearer lenses. An absolute 'must read.'" --Robert Calfee, PhD, Dean, School of Education, University of California, Riverside

"Venezky has written an immensely interesting and informative book on American English spelling. It covers a broad range of topics, moving gracefully from the historical origins of the 26 letters to the regularities and irregularities of spelling in food and drink words, and ending with the rules of spelling useful for teaching phonics to beginning readers. My favorite line: 'No hand of consistency ever stoked the spelling engine for English.'" --Jeanne S. Chall, PhD, Professor of Education, Emeritus, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"Few writers on educational topics can resist the temptation to admonish and advise, especially when the topic is reading. 'What is' tends to take second place to 'what ought to be' in the eyes of such critics. Venezky's thorough and engaging analysis of how spelling patterns relate to spoken language and to reading manages to escape this temptation, providing a basis for clear thinking about the issues." --David R. Olson, PhD, Professor of Human Development and Applied Psychology, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto

About the Author

Richard L. Venezky is the Unidel Professor of Educational Studies at the University of Delaware, where he holds joint appointments in linguistics and computer and information sciences. In addition to his academic position, he works with the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC, and directs an educational technology project for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. He lives in Newark, Delaware, and in Sag Harbor, New York, with his wife, Councilwoman Karen G. Venezky.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By T. Freeman on February 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I could not put this book down. Most adults probably no longer give much thought to the different patterns in English spelling, or to the long lists of familiar exceptions to those patterns. But for children first learning to read and write, these patterns and exceptions can present a barrier. What is the history behind our current system? What principles best describe it? How can a modern linguistic analysis, using an intermediate "morphophonemic" level between spelling and sound help us to understand this system? This book answers these questions in an engaging narrative.

Although the examples of pronunciation in this book are for a General American accent, readers from other accent communities should not be discouraged by the title. The history and principles of this modern description can be read equally well, I believe, by anyone who reads and speaks English and would like to better understand English spelling.

As the author says is the introduction, "This book will either make you feel more at home with [English orthography's] peculiarities, or drive you to join a spelling reform society." For some readers, it may do both.
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