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Morphological spelling in spite of phonological deficits: Evidence from children with dyslexia and otitis media



The present study examines whether literacy or phonological impairment affects use of morphological spelling constancy, the principle that morphemes are spelled consistently across words. Children with dyslexia or otitis media (OM) were compared to chronological-age matched children and reading-ability matched children. Monomorphemic and polymorphemic nonwords were spelled in a sentence-completion dictation task. Use of root and suffix morphemes increased with age in typical development, particularly derivational morphemes. Dyslexic children generally used morphological strategies less than their chronological-age matched peers but to a similar extent as reading-ability matched peers. OM children showed a specific weakness in using inflectional suffixes. The results suggest different causes for the spelling difficulties in each case: dyslexic children had difficulties in generalizing more complex morphological relationships, while the OM children's difficulties had a phonological/perceptual basis.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Helen L. Breadmore, Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Coventry University, Priory Street, Coventry CV1 5FB, UK. E-mail:


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