Skip to main content Accessibility help

Knowledge of derivational morphology and spelling ability in fourth, sixth, and eighth graders

  • Joanne F. Carlisle (a1)


This study investigated students' knowledge of derivational morphology and the relationship between this knowledge and their ability to spell derived words. The subjects (fourth, sixth and eighth graders) were given the Wide Range Achievement Test, Spelling subtest, and experimental tests of their ability to generate base and derived forms orally, to spell the same base and derived words, and to apply suffix addition rules. The results indicate strong developmental trends in both the mastery of derivational morphology and the spelling of derived words; however, spelling performances lagged significantly behind the ability to generate the same words. Success generating and spelling derived words depended on the complexity of transformations between base and derived forms. Further, mastery of phonological and orthographic transformations most strongly distinguished the three grades in both spelling and generating derived words. Indications that the older students were using knowledge of morphemic structure in spelling derived words were found in analysis of the spelling of base and derived word pairs and the application of suffix addition rules.


Corresponding author

Joanne F. Carlisle Northwestern University, Learning Disabilities Center, 2299 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60201


Hide All
Barganz, R. A. (1971). The morphophonemic performance of good and poor readers. Technical Report #182. Madison, WI: Research and Development Center for Cognitive Learning.
Berko, J. (1958). The child's learning of English morphology. Word, 14, 150177.
Cahen, L. S., Craun, M. J., and Johnson, S. K. (1971). Spelling difficulty—A survey of the research. Review of Educational Research, 41, 281301.
Carlisle, J. F. (1984, 03). Mastery of the conventions of suffixation by good and poor spellers in grades seven through nine. Paper presented at the New York Orton Dyslexia Society Conference, New York, NY.
Carlisle, J. F. (1985). The relationship between morphological knowledge and spelling ability in fourth, sixth, and eighth graders. Status Report on Speech Research, #SR-82–83. New Haven, CT: Haskins Laboratories, 151174.
Carroll, J. B., Davies, P., and Richman, B. (1971). Word frequency book. New York: American Heritage.
Chomsky, C. (1970). Reading, writing and phonology. Harvard Educational Review, 40, 287309.
Chomsky, N., and Halle, M. (1968). The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper and Row.
Derwing, B. L. (1976). Morpheme recognition and the learning of rules for derivational morphology. Canadian Journal of Linguistics, 21, 3866.
Derwing, B. L., and Baker, W. J. (1979). Recent research on the acquisition of English morphology. In Fletcher, P. and Carman, M. (Eds.), Language acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fischer, F. W., Shankweiler, D., and Liberman, I. Y. (1985). Spelling proficiency and sensitivity to word structure. Journal of Memory and Language, 24, 423441.
Freyd, P., and Baron, J. (1982). Individual differences in acquisition of derivational morphology. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 21, 282295.
Frith, U. (1980). Unexpected spelling problems. In Frith, U. (Ed.), Cognitive processes in spelling. New York: Academic.
Henderson, L. (1982). Orthography and word recognition in reading. New York: Academic.
Ingram, D. (1976). Phonological disability in children. London: Edward Arnold.
Jackendoff, R. (1975). Morphological and semantic regularities in the lexicon. Language, 51(3), 639671.
Jaeger, J. J. (1984). Assessing the psychological status of the vowel shift rule. Journal of Psycho-linguistic Research, 13, 1336.
Jarvella, R. J., and Snodgrass, J. G. (1974). Seeing ring in rang and retain in retention: On recognizing stem morphemes in printed words. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 13, 590598.
Jastak, J. F., and Jastak, S. (1978). The Wide Range Achievement Test. Wilmington, DE: Jastak Associates.
Kempley, S. T., and Morton, J. (1982). The effects of priming with regularly and irregularly related words in auditory word recognition. British Journal of Psychology, 73, 441454.
Klima, E. S. (1972). How alphabets might reflect language. In Kavanagh, J. F. and Mattingly, I. G. (Eds.), Language by ear and by eye. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
LaSorte, D. M. (1980). The differential effects of visual and auditory information in determining meaning of derived words at third and fifth grade levels. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the College Reading Association, Baltimore, Maryland.
Liberman, I. Y., Liberman, A. M., Mattingly, I. G., and Shankweiler, D. P. (1980). Orthography and the beginning reader. In Kavanagh, J. F. and Venezky, R. L. (Eds.), Orthography, Reading and Dyslexia. Baltimore: University Park Press.
Marino, J. L. (1979). Children's use of phonetic, graphemic and morphophonemic cues in a spelling task. Washington, DC: Educational Resources Information Center, document #ED188235.
Moskowitz, B. (1973). On the status of the vowel shift in English. In Moore, J. (Ed.), Cognitive development and the acquisition of language. New York: Academic.
Randall, J. H. (1980). -ity: A study in word formation restrictions. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 9(6), 523534.
Richardson, J. T. E. (1977). Lexical derivation. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 6, 319335.
Robinson, J. W., and Hesse, K. D. (1981). A morphemically based spelling program's effect on spelling skill and spelling performance of seventh grade students. Journal of Educational Research, 75, 5662.
Rubin, H. (1984). An investigation of the development of morphological knowledge and its relationship to early spelling ability. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT.
Russell, P. (1972). Morphology and English spelling. Los Alamitos, CA: Southwest Regional Laboratory. ERIC #ED108–228.
Schwartz, S., and Doehring, D. G. (1977). A developmental study of children's ability to acquire knowledge of spelling patterns. Developmental Psychology, 13, 419420.
Selby, S. (1972). The development of morphological rules in children. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 42, 293299.
Smith, P. T., and Sterling, C. M. (1982). Factors affecting the perceived morphemic structure of written words. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 21, 704721.
Stanners, R. F., Hernon, W. P., and Hall, R. (1979). Memory representation for morphologically related words. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 18, 399412.
Steinberg, D. D. (1973). Phonology, reading, and Chomsky's optimal orthography. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 2, 239258.
Sterling, C. M. (1983). Spelling errors in context. British Journal of Psychology, 74, 353364.
Templeton, S. (1980). Spelling, phonology and the older student. In Henderson, E. H. and Beers, J. W. (Eds.), Developmental and cognitive aspects of learning to spell: A reflection of word knowledge. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Templeton, S., and Scarborough-Franks, L. (1985). The spelling's the thing: Knowledge of derivational morphology in orthography and phonology among older students. Applied Psycho-linguistics, 6, 371390.
Thorndike, E. L. (1941). The teaching of English suffixes. New York: Teachers College Press.
Wiig, E. H., Semel, E. M., and Grouse, M. A. B. (1973). The use of English morphology by high-risk and learning disabled children. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 7, 5967.
Venezky, R. L. (1970). The structure of English orthography. The Hague: Mouton.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
  • URL: /core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed