Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Use of Morphology in Spelling by Children with Dyslexia and Typically Developing Children

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Use of Morphology in Spelling by Children with Dyslexia and Typically Developing Children

Article excerpt

In English and some other languages, spelling problems that arise at a phonological level can sometimes be solved through consideration of morphology. For example, children could infer that tuned should contain an n and that fighting should contain a t because their stems include these letters. Children could thus avoid misspellings that might otherwise occur, such as "tud" and "fiding." We used a spelling-level match design to examine the extent to which children with dyslexia and younger typical children use morphology in this way. Both groups of children benefited from morphology to some extent, but not as much as they could have given their knowledge of the stems. Our results suggest that the spellings produced by older children with dyslexia are similar to those of younger normal children in their morphological characteristics, as well as in other ways.

In an alphabetic writing system, the spelling of a word reflects the sounds that it contains. Learning to spell, in large part, involves learning the mappings between sounds and letters. Difficulties of several sorts may arise as children learn and use these mappings. One source of difficulty is phonemic segmentation skills that are not fully developed. Other difficulties occur because of irregularities in the sound-to-spelling correspondences of a writing system. In English and certain other languages, spelling difficulties at the phonological level can sometimes be overcome through the use of morphological information. In the present study, we examined the extent to which typical learners and learners with dyslexia use morphology to solve phonological spelling problems.

Children learn most efficiently and productively if they can divide spoken words into units of the size represented by the writing system-phonemes in the case of English and other alphabetic systems. However, the ability to segment spoken words into phonemes develops later than the ability to segment words into such units as syllables, onsets (initial consonants or clusters), and rimes (vowel + final consonant units) (see, e.g., Liberman, Shankweiler, Fischer, & Carter, 1974; Treiman & Zukowski, 1991). Consider a young child who conceptualizes the onset of a word like fly as a single unit. If this child has not separately learned a spelling for the /fl/ unit, the child may misspell the word as "fi" or "fy" (e.g., Caravolas & Bruck, 1993; Treiman, 1991).1 Such spelling errors do not reflect any irregularity in the spelling of the onset cluster. Instead, the errors reflect the child's difficulty in analyzing speech at the level of phonemes.

Links between phonemes and graphemes that are irregular or unpredictable also cause difficulty for learners. For example, the phoneme /ae/ is spelled as a in such English words as bat and flag but as ai in plaid. Situations such as this are common in English, more common than in such languages as Finnish or Italian. In some cases of one-to-many links from sounds to letters, spellers could choose the correct letter if they considered the sound's position in the word or syllable or the identity of the surrounding sounds (Kessler & Treiman, 2001). In other cases, such disambiguation is not possible. This is true for the /ae/ of plaid, and it is also true for the flaps that occur in certain dialects of English, including North American English. The second consonants of such words as water, writer, and rider are almost always pronounced as flaps. Flaps are made with a quick tap of the tongue against the ridge that lies behind the upper teeth, and the flap that occurs in writer sounds no different from the one that occurs in rider. Indeed, these two words are homophonous for most Americans, including the population we studied in the present research. It is not possible to predict on the basis of a flap's sound whether it should be spelled as t or d. Children do not always make the same decisions that the writing system does, leading to misspellings such as "woodr" for water (e. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.