Word-initial entropy in five langauges: Letter to sound, and sound to letter

Alphabetic orthographies show more or less ambiguous relations between spelling and sound patterns. In transparent orthographies, like Italian, the pronunciation can be predicted from the spelling and vice versa. Opaque orthographies, like English, often display unpredictable spelling–sound correspondences. In this paper we present a computational analysis of word-initial bi-directional spelling–sound correspondences for Dutch, English, French, German, and Hungarian, stated in entropy values for various grain sizes. This allows us to position the five languages on the continuum from opaque to transparent orthographies, both in spelling-to-sound and sound-to-spelling directions. The analysis is based on metrics derived from information theory, and therefore independent of any specific theory of visual word recognition as well as of any specific theoretical approach of orthography.
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