3V1145.01 What does spelling mean to Peggy ? [“How do you spell ‘boat’ ?”] (3/12/81)
‘How do you spell ‘boat’ ?’ Peggy asked me. I responded to her question as if she meant what any adult would mean. After a pause, smiling, Peggy said (roughly), ‘That’s what I thought…. I can do it myself.’ (She can not, obviously.)
What did Peggy mean by her question ? I don’t know any way of telling for certain… but we can make these speculations. ‘Spelling’ a word means (vaguely) producing some string of sounds ‘associated’ with the word but bearing no semantic relation to it. (Thus ‘woof boogle jig’ spells French as ‘b’, ‘o’, ‘a’, ‘t’ spells ‘boat.’)
Relevance : such is not a bad signification for ‘spell’ precisely because it represents the arbitrary relation between the meaningful word and non-meaningful sequence of (as yet unknown) letters-name sounds.