The orthographic representation of a word’s morphological structure: beneficial and detrimental effect for spellers

Dominiek Sandra, Dorit Ravid, Ingo Plag*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In this paper we present a review of the literature on the role of a word’s morphological structure in written language processing, with an emphasis on spelling. First, we describe that many orthographies have opted for a representation of a word’s morphological structure. Second, we discuss experiments that have demonstrated the importance of a word’s morphological structure in reading, both in isolated word recognition experiments (so-called blind morphological decomposition) and in reading for meaning. Third, we discuss experimental findings that the written representation of a word’s morphological structure can have beneficial effects in spelling, already in young children with a good morphological awareness. However, several experiments have also shown that, in some circumstances, the speller’s task of representing morphology in written words creates considerable challenges and causes spelling errors rather than providing assistance. Closer inspection of this dissociation between beneficial and harmful effects reveals that two factors play a crucial role in determining the error risk: (a) the distinction between stems and affixes (i.e., morphological accessibility based on semantic transparency) and (b) the frequency with which a morpheme type in a language (stem, affix) must be retrieved in writing texts (accessibility based on type and token frequency). The review offers a theoretical framework against which the other papers in this special issue can be situated.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMorphology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • Blind morphological decomposition
  • Homophone dominance
  • Morphological awareness
  • Morphological principle
  • Spelling errors
  • Stem level
  • Suffix level
  • Usage frequency

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