Title

AN INVESTIGATION OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF MORPHOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO EARLY SPELLING ABILITY (LANGUAGE, ORAL, WRITTEN)

Date of Completion

January 1984

Keywords

Education, Special

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

This study assessed the morphological knowledge of kindergarten and first grade children in relation to their early spelling ability. Morphological knowledge was investigated as a possible source of variation in the development of spelling ability for two reasons. First, in spelling, children need to understand the internal structure of words, and specifically, that words are composed of morphemes and that morphemes are composed of phonemes. Second, it has been demonstrated that children with learning problems have more difficulty spelling inflected and derived forms of words than other children. Since young children have been found to vary greatly in their early attempts to spell, it seemed reasonable to anticipate that morphological knowledge would have a significant influence on early spelling ability.^ Children in kindergarten and first grade were grouped by morphological competence, or their implict understanding of the morphology, as measured by their performance on the Berry-Talbott Test of Language (1966). They were then given tests of dictated spelling, morphological awareness (their explicit understanding of the morphology), and phoneme analysis, all of which used one-morpheme words (such as wind) and two-morpheme words (such as pinned).^ It was found that first graders with poor morphological competence omitted more inflectional morphemes in their spelling attempts and were less able to identify base morphemes in inflected words than either kindergarteners or first graders who were morphologically competent. The results demonstrate the importance of morphological knowledge, both in terms of underlying competence and explicit awareness, as a critical factor in the development of spelling proficiency. It is recommended that the morphological knowledge of young children be assessed and that instruction in word structure be implemented in order to help children develop the sensitivity to morphophonemic structure that they clearly need to become proficient written language users. ^